Photography has become my most honest form of communication. Creatively, I am able to affect others and encourage them to view our surroundings differently. The process of capturing an image has evolved each time I press the shutter.
I developed an early interest in taking photographs. Aged 17, I remember dedicating each Tuesday to exploring Perth in my Datsun 180B, looking for something of interest. Armed with a Pentax K1000 and a roll of film, Iâ€™d find a subject, point and shoot. That was it.
Without a tripod or an understanding of exposures, my photographs never seemed to replicate what I had experienced on the day. Before long, the Pentax found a home under my bed and a windsurfer became my new best friend. The fire wasnâ€™t relit until ten years later, and let me say â€“ what a blaze! I soon discovered how much more photography can offer with a small amount of technical knowhow. By experimenting, I developed a format for capturing that moment when nature puts on a show. Only rarely have I arrived at a location, quickly photographed it, and left satisfied.
I had an image of Deralinya Homestead in my mindâ€™s eye many months before I unzipped my camera bag. Living in a remote area of Western Australia, I knew the region had to hold some secrets. I met with the town surveyor who told me the location and what to expect. I grabbed my gear, made my way there and by early afternoon I had arrived.
Exploring new places always excites me, but this place was unique. Having travelled much of Australia, Iâ€™ve seen lots of old ruins many of which have fallen victim to vandalism. Deralinya was very different. I walked the area
for a few hours asking myself questions: how did the pioneers who built this homestead exist in such a remote area?; why did the family choose here?; would I have the same survival skills?
The feeling inside the structure was surreal. There was a fire that had been recently lit, I could see a kangaroo hide was being used as a mat and a table made from fallen timbers sat in the corner. On it, someone had placed a pot of ink and a quill beside a journal. It was obvious that this was still being used as a shelter for any explorer who could find it. Most respectfully, there was no sign of litter!
This wholesome feeling had taken me to another period, and it was something I wanted to try and capture on film. Not that day, however, as the light was fading and I needed midday sun to illuminate the scene. Also, I could see some small nail holes in the tin roof, which I thought might create an interesting effect once light poked through. I grabbed a quick reference shot to take home and study until my return visit.
Ten weeks later, with clear summer skies above me, I returned. This time I knew the time of day I wanted to shoot, where to position the camera and, most importantly, what message I wanted to communicate. I was half-way there. At this point, I usually consider factors like the amount of wind causing motion, or how long I have to wait until the tourists are out of shot. Neither was an issue here so I set up my gear and framed the image.
Sometimes, a little housekeeping is necessary. Moving the mosquito net to the left of frame hid a small carving on the wall, whilst removing some modern food packaging helped restore the sense of period. I loaded the camera with a roll of my trusty Fuji Velvia film and my exposures were set. After all of this, the most important question remained â€“ did I have what I came looking for?
The Process Itself
Look through the viewfinder. Try to detach yourself from everything else surrounding you and focus on the image before you. What feeling do you get from what you see? Is this the emotion you want to capture? If so, now is the time to press the shutter. Thatâ€™s what I did. An anxious week later my film had returned and there was the result, just what I had hoped for.
No matter how prepared I am, I donâ€™t always successfully capture what I want to. It once took me six years of revisiting a rainforest and hoping for the right conditions before I was able to capture the image that I wanted. Other times, Iâ€™ve simply been in the right place at the right time. I consider the process of capturing an image to be a uniquely challenging, yet refreshingly beautiful journey. Looking back at my earlier efforts as a teenager, I now know that a little knowledge and effort can make all the difference in taking that great photo.