2011 Karijini Workshop with Christian Fletcher, Peter Eastway and Tony Hewitt

At the end of March i ventured off on my long awaited trip to Karijini National Park for a photography workshop to be held my by photography idols Christian Fletcher, Peter Eastway and Tony Hewitt. I had been waiting for this trip for a year now, ever since i found out about last years trip.

So i knocked off work at around lunch time, pack my camera gear and borrowed Macbook (cheers Manda!!), said goodbye to my girls and off i went. There was some really low cloud forming up over the pilbara and there was many chances to pull over and shoot off a few rounds but i resisted as i didnt want to be the last one to Karijini.  I’d hate to miss something haha.

3.5 hours later i had arrived and what an awesome drive it was through the end of the Hammersly Ranges. I went and check into my shared accomodation. I met with my room mate Karl. He runs his own photography and framing business in Gero. He is a top bloke and man did he have some camera gear!!! Check out his blog:http://www.outbackpix.com/blog/category/blog/ so we headed back to reception to see who else had arrived and settled in with a few quiet beers. Christian and the boys rock up about 7:30 and everyone introduced themselves and gave a bit of a run down on whats going to be happening over the next 4 days. Its now become quite clear that there wasnt going to be much time for sleeping.

Day 1 – Oxers Lookout Sunrise Shoot

4:00am the alarm goes off for a 4:30 start down to Oxers Lookout. This is the place where 4 gorges come together (Hancock, Weano, Joffre and Red). Everyone is very excited to get out there and start shooting. I set my camera up on the tripod, find a nice position on the lookout platform, point my camera in the general direction and wait for the vivid light the Pilbara is famous for. I start shooting and as the photos show up in the lcd screen im quite pleased. This is going to be a great trip i thought to myself. I end up shooting about 1.3GB worth of RAW photos and im looking forward to getting back to start editing the photos. After the shoot we head back to the Eco Retreat where everyone freshen’s up and started downloading their cards. As im looking through mine i realize there all slightly out-of-focus due to the small amount of movement caused by people walking around on the lookout platform!! AMATURE!!! i thought to myself, Ive got a lot to learn! Anyway here is 1 shot that i managed to get away with.

After that we head over to the caretakers quarters for a few presentations and lunch.

Day 1 -  Sunset Shoot Over the Range’s

We headed off about 4:30 in the afternoon to see if we could capture some magic sunset light. There were a few clouds around but they were very thick and mostly hanging around the horizon. The boys had since told us about the technique of Focus Stacking where basically you take several photos of the same scene and blend them all together so in the final photo the whole scene is in focus. Sounds like a good idea to me! everyone set off on there own little adventure centered around this hill. There was plenty to shoot, sometime a little too much. Again when i got back i wasn’t happy with what i produced and its was then i really started doubting myself and wondering what the hell i was doing on this course!

Here are a couple from that shoot.

Day 2 – Sunrise shoot and Weano Gorge

We got up again for an early morning shoot close to Weano Gorge. We were let down by the lack of cloud. Only very light cloud around the horizon and not much else. It also made for a very chilly morning. Tony grouped us all together and gave us a very informative lesson on how light plays a very important part in not only portrait photography but all kinds of photography. He used the early morning glow for a couple of portrait shots of the group. It was great advice and a very fun start to the morning. We then wondered around the bush taking a few snaps before heading down to Weano Gorge. With the recent rains accross the Pilbara there was plenty of water in the gorges. Its always a great sign when you can hear the waterfalls before you even come close to seeing them. I was getting very excited! Ive been wanting to shoot some waterfalls for a very long time. We get down there and the light was just starting to filter in. As the sun comes up, it hits the walls and reflects onto the water making for some pretty spectacular scenes. The waterfall systems in Weano are fairly tight and compacted together and we seemed to be getting in each others way, so the decision was made for half of the group to stay and the other half to head over to Hancock Gorge. I stayed in Weano as i had just set up and was in a very comfortable position and could see the red reflections starting to light up the water.

Here are some shots from Weano Gorge.

Day 2 – Joffre Gorge Sunset Shoot

After a few more workshops back at the Eco Retreat we headed out to Joffre Gorge for a sunset shoot. This is the closest gorge to the retreat so the idea was to get out, get some shots, get back to the Retreat for a night time photoshop workshop run by Christian. We walked down to the top half of the gorge and there were a lot of little waterfall systems to keep everyone busy. I headed down to try and get a good angle of the main waterfall but everywhere i tried to set up there was something in my way. Some rock just poking into the scene that just through the whole photo off. So i just sat down and watched the waterfall for a while. 2 young German backpackers jumped down to the ledge i was sitting and and started having a chat about what we were all doing. Now me sitting with these 2 young, attractive German backpackers provided alot of entertainment for the rest of the group haha cheeky buggers!! After about a 20 minute chat with them and a few photos of them in the gorge, i was back into the action. Im very happy with my shots from this gorge, especially the last shot of the day. The waterfall with the tree over the top. The sun had well and truely started to go down and the rest of the group had started headed out of the gorge when i spotted this. I just had to take a few snaps. I havent even put my shoes and socks back on yet!! I set the camera up, 30 second exposure, manual focus on the rocks and away i went. While it was shooting, i raced over and started putting my socks back on. Next i focused in on the tree above the waterfall and get the shot off! I quickly pack up and race back up the gorge.

We head back to the retreat for dinner and then settle in for Christians photoshop tutorial. Now i dont know if everyone had 1 too many beers or a touch of sun stroke, but man this was a tough session to get through. It wasnt tough in the sence of actually being hard to follow but tough in the sence people were getting left behind and getting stuck and slow computers. Im sure Christian had a few more greys in that head of his by the end of the night. It was a really good session actually with plenty of laughs. Peter Eastway didnt really help the situation either with his brilliant 1 liners.

Here are some shots from Joffre Gorge.

Day 3 – Hancock Gorge Sunrise Shoot

After our midnight finish last night, we got to have a bit sleep in this morning due to the lack of any decent sunrises. 5:00am was our starting time! The group that went to hancock gorge yesterday morning will do weano today and vice versa! We headed down the steep gorge and i was at the front of the pack. Theres only enough room for 1 or 2 photographers at kermits pool without getting in each others way, so i made my way down there first. Its a bit of a mission to get down there with alot of rock climbing and a nice refreshing swim chucked in for good measure. I charged ahead, coming to a bit of a dead end. There was this waterslide like section which lead to a nice little waterfall at the end. I approached it from a few different angles and still had no idea how to get down to the bottom of it. Maybe i’ve taken the wrong track? That’ll teach me for rushing off hahaha. So i headed back towards the group. They were all still coming this way, i must be right, so i took off back towards the waterslide. I looked around a bit and then saw the sign “Kermits Pool”. I was already there hahaha. I later found out you can get past the waterslide section, but its a massive mission and you need a tour guide. So i got my shots of Kermits Pool and head back up so others could head down and get their photos. There are a lot of waterfall systems in Hancock aswell, plenty to keep me busy. I think Hancock would have to have been my favourite gorge.

Here are some shots of Hancock Gorge.

Day 3 – Dales Gorge Sunset Shoot

After some more workshops back at the Eco Retreat, we headed out to Dales Gorge. This is probably the most “touristy” of all the gorges. It is home to Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool. Most of the group stayed around the main falls, Christian and a few of us when in search of a few of the smaller waterfall systems. We treked down about half way between fortescue falls and circular pool and found a bunch of flat rock and some beautiful colour reflecting off the rocks. We got a late start getting into the gorge so we didnt get a lot of time in there. Here are a few i managed to get.

Day 4 – Altered Landscape Sunrise Shoot

With most of the gorges now done, we were given the task to shoot Altered Landscapes, Christian’s latest fasination. Its actually a good concept, how much we have impacted the landscape, and how much we will impacted in the future, well thats my take on it anyway. Even at a place like Karijini, in the middle of no where, you can find places where we have change the landscape. Some people were really keen on the project, a few others not so much. I have got a few shots which i still want to process when i get the time.  Here are 2 of my favourite ones from the morning.

Day 4 – Dales Gorge (Circular Pool)

The last night of the workshop and we headed back to Dales Gorge. The group split in 2, half went to the flat rocks we went to the day before and the rest of us made our way to Circular Pool. I was pretty disappointed when i got there. There wasnt much of a waterfall. I had also left my zoom lens back at the retreat so i couldnt get in close enough to the falls. I noticed on the way in a few smaller water falls through the rocks so i thought i’d head back and have a crack at them. I havent had much of a chance to edit any of these yet, mainly due to the fact i dont really like them haha. Once back on top of the gorge, the sun had set and there was some really nice afterglow. I decided i wanted a nice Focus Stacked Panorama so off i went.  This is a 7 image focus stacked panorama. Once finished i tried to save it as a .tiff file but it was over 4GB.  I flattened the image and saved as a .jpeg and its still 38MB in size.  Im going to enter this in the up coming Epson Pano Awards. I’ll let ya know how i go.

This has been such as awesome 4 days with a great bunch of people. People i hope to stay in touch with. A massive thank you to Christian, Tony and Peter for the time, help and general banter! I dont think there was a serious word said the whole trip. I already cant wait for next years workshop. Bring on Karijini 2012!!!

Pilbara Project Exhibition opening at FORM Gallery

On February 10, the Pilbara Project launched its first exhibition “52 Weeks On: A Pilbara Project Exhibition” at the newly renovated FORM Gallery in Perth.  The exhibition also opened the following night at the Courthouse Gallery in Port Hedland, details shown on the previous blog post here.

Tony speaking along with the rest of the artists

The exhibition features new photography and film by renowned artists Les Walkling, Tony Hewitt, Christian Fletcher, Michael Fletcher and Peter Eastway.  It is curated by William L. Fox, Director of the Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art.  More details on the exhibition can be found here.

Squeezing in to see Michael's film launch

Les talking with filmmaker Curtis Taylor

Hon Troy Buswell MLA opening the exhibition

The book launch for “The Pilbara Project: Field Notes and Photographs Collected over 2010” was also a great success, with the artists on hand for signing.

Photographs by Michelle Taylor


Dampier Salt

Here’s another couple of shots taken from the early morning shoot at Dampier Salt on Day 2 of the photography trip. Not exactly sure what Peter Eastway is up to, but Christian appears amused.

Cast of Characters (Belated Observations)

I wrote this a couple weeks ago, intending to post it, and just today realised that I neglected to do so.  As many of you know, a group of professional photographers and students traipsed through the Pilbara maniacally taking photos – some of which have been appearing on this blog the past couple weeks.

It has been very humbling traveling with the group of photographers including Peter Eastway, Les Walkling, Tony Hewitt, Christian Fletcher and filmmaker Michael Fletcher.  It allowed me to not only see through my own eyes, but also over the shoulder and through the viewfinder of these great imagemakers.  I am trying to decide if it is a comfort or discouragement that even they at times had difficulty capturing what lay before us in the Pilbara.

Christian Fletcher, the fearless leader, is well known to many in the Hedland community from his workshops and many trips to the area.  Knowing the area well, he brought together a superb group of photographers for this project.  While there was great camaraderie and banter between the artists, there was definitely friendly competition as well.  However, Christian was always there to make sure things didn’t become either too serious or silly.  Forever the teacher, he would talk his way through the photographing process, with the students hovering around picking up his knowledge.

Les Walkling, scientist and intellectual, saved his energy by avoiding frivolous banter.  But when he spoke, everyone listening dropped their jaw in either amazement or incomprehension.  A great teacher like Christian, he navigated the balance between technical prowess and conceptual thinking more than anyone else I have worked with, and was more than happy to share this knowledge. When he took a photo, he also became a photo, striking an epic figure in the landscape.

Tony Hewitt was the hardest for me to photograph.  Being primarily a portrait photographer, he would restlessly move in and out of the other people.  Unlike the landscape photographers who set up in a prime vantage point, he would look for the stories in the land as though he were taking a portrait.  A consummate mediator and generous of spirit, he always made sure the group was happy.  This is why he is one of the most sought-after photographers and public speakers in Western Australia.

Like Tony, Peter Eastway was also difficult for me to track.  He would immediately disappear when we reached a new location.  After a bit of searching, he could  be found in a prime location away from the others, discovering a sublime panorama or a gentle image of solitude in the vast horizon.  He  knew when he had a good picture, and didn’t waste his time if the light wasn’t perfect or the feeling wasn’t there.  These skills of discernment help make him one of Australia’s best photographers, as well as publisher of two of the most important Australian photography magazines.

Michael Fletcher, like most great filmmakers, studies how the scenery unfolds.  He can predict when something interesting is about to happen, and be at the perfect place to capture it.  Always watching, silently listening, he looks for the subtle moments or dramatic events that a single frame cannot interpret.  Working with manual focus, which is unique to many filmmakers, he is able to articulate the point between the vastness and intimacy of the landscape.

What reminded me I haven’t posted the above thoughts yet was that Mags from FORM just left for the Pilbara today with a new batch of professionals – two writers, a poet, a painter and another photographer.  I look forward to seeing and reading what they experience.  However, we will not forget the above mentioned photographers (and filmmaker), all of which promised to return to the Pilbara again soon.

A New Pilbara Experience

Feb. 1, 2010.  Today is my first day of work.  I recently joined the team at FORM out of desire to work in regional Australia.  However, my prior experience traveling in Western Australia hasn’t brought me further North than the beaches of Dongara, further East than the farming communities surrounding Northam, or further South than the wineries enveloping Margaret River.

Previous to making Australia my home, I lived for a couple years in the Northern desert region of Mexico where I taught art at a University in Hermosillo.  When I first entered Mexico, I considered myself primarily a painter, with photography playing a supporting role.  After months of struggling to find my way with paint, photography soon became my dominant means to interpret the world around me.  The sublime landscape was filled with contradictions, bending my logic of space, colour and texture.  But rather than try capture what can’t be contained, my lens would find its way to the periphery, the small edges and ruptures appearing on the endless horizon.

Now after living in Australia for a couple years, the smell of oils and turpentine once again pervade my studio.  We will soon see if the Pilbara air has the same affect on me as the Sonoran Desert.

I lived in a new development on the outskirts of Hermosillo where cinderblock houses were erected daily in the liminal space between the city and the desert.

Day 1: Not long after we landed in Port Hedland, the group of photographers and filmmakers spread throughout the port.  The group includes Peter Eastway, Les Walkling, Tony Hewitt, Christian Fletcher, Michael Fletcher and local P.H.otography graduates Nicole, Simon, Faye and Judith.

Day 1: Peter Eastway shooting around Port Hedland

Day 1: Harbour tour of Port Hedland

Day 2: Making our way to Karratha

Day 2: Stopping at every panoramic view along the way

Day 2: Les Walkling in Cossack

Day 2: Michael Fletcher and P.H.otography graduates

Day 3: Tony Hewitt and Christian Fletcher touring the Dampier Archipelago

Day 4: Storm chasing on the way to Marble Bar

Day 4: Evening shoot at Marble Bar

Day 5: Morning shoot at Marble Bar

Day 5: Les at Marble Bar Pool

Day 5: Michael filming near Comet Gold Mine

Day 6: My first trip up to the Pilbara is beginning to wind down and this is the last day of shooting.  I will be spending much of the day in the Courthouse Gallery, surrounded by the brilliant P.H.otography exhibit (‘I Took The Time To Look’ Perspectives of the Pilbara), which had a grand opening last night.  Hopefully we will see a great showing for the ‘Meet the Photographers’ event tonight as well.

The past week has been an amazing experience.  Although we travelled non-stop, it only showed me how much more is out there.  It has been very humbling traveling with this group of photographers.  I am trying to decide if it is a comfort or discouragement that they even at times have difficulty capturing what lay before us.  I am traveling light as usual, using the Olympus E-P1 with the collapsible M. Zuiko 14-42mm lens.  Further observations on each of the photographers will be posted soon.

Day 6: Tony giving advice after the 'Meet the Photographers' event

Day 7: Final thoughts at the airport

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