Today’s subject is a series of aerial interpretations of a tidal formation known as ‘The Tree’ by locals. It is formed of sandbars and the action between the high tide lagoon draining. Due to the nature of fluid dynamics, the current magnifies any irregularities in the channel creating a self-reinforcing turbulent flow which in turn digs certain channels deeper than others. Over time, this creates ever deeper channels – but also channels that may land up shifting when the various flows deposit runoff material and interact with each other in unexpected ways. The upshot of all this is the creation of a pattern that can only really be appreciated from the air both due to accessibility and scale (and there would be no vantage point from the ground). The rate of change is much faster than you might think, too: these images were shot at the opposite ends of the same day, yet there are formations that are visibly different over the course of barely twelve hours. MT
As promised – here’s the other half without obviously identifiable reference points. I often find that with aerial images, it’s either very easy to abstract or very hard to get a consistent sense of scale – especially when the subject matter is not something that jumps out at us as something our subconscious can pattern recognise. The landscape here is simply so randomly full of formations that you’d have trouble dreaming up. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on the aim of the photograph. I don’t think one approach is better than the other, but it is an interesting cognitive exercise. Personally, when selecting images to fill the walls of the apartment we moved to earlier in the year – I found myself hanging quite a number of the less identifiable ones, and other images which were not an obvious choice based on my own screen preferences; proof printing plays a huge role here (assuming of course you print large enough!) Which do you prefer? MT
I’ve shot in very few places that have this kind of yield or density of interesting subject matter and images you feel compelled to have to make – I guess that either makes them rare, or I don’t travel enough. If at this point you’re wondering why there’s such a focus on this little corner of Western Australia – the simple reason is that it had a huge variety of subject matter, and whether through difference to my normal environment or otherwise – simply forced me to keep shooting. Visual coherence might perhaps only come through in the quality of light and some continuity of subject matter between frames, and I find that quite amazing given the relatively small area covered. Colours may appear surreal, but I assure you that I’ve tried my best to get them as close to reality as possible; I’m sure part of what attracted me to those subjects was the very unusual color (for natural subjects) in the first place. Enjoy! MT
I think of this set as a fractal scale experiment: nature is self-same and self-replicating to some degree at different distances; what breaks this pattern is the presence of manmade elements of reference that provide a sense of size. Without those, it’s not so easy to tell if we’re looking at a bunch of very small bushes, or a mountain covered in massive trees. I was at varying heights for this series – everything from about 50cm to 40,000ft. Yet with the exception of some unremovable haze, the whole presentation is surprisingly consistent – which I find quite remarkable. MT
One more set of images from the ‘Over Australia’ series. These areas were not actually the primary focus of the trip, but rather something interesting overflown en-route – and when you’re chartering a plane, you want to squeeze out every single photographic opportunity possible. What caught my eye here was two things – the rather painterly patterns created by the typically Australian orange sand and water interspersing with oceanic sand, and the way the transparency of the water changed with the angle of the sun relative to our position – everything from milky to glassy to almost nonexistent (the water wasn’t very deep). There were also semi-evaporated pools that became isolated at low tide, both leaving interesting rim patterns and interesting colors from concentrated sediment suspensions. These were shot at low altitudes (1000-1500ft) from a light aircraft with the doors removed. (A helicopter both wasn’t available or possible because of the distances required.) It’s somewhat more challenging than working from a helicopter because the aircraft never stops; you need to have a high enough shutter speed and good panning technique to prevent any sort of camera shake ruining the transparency of the images – worse as the resolution increases.
This series of images was never intended to be shot: this might seem like an odd thing to say, but it was not the intention for this particular aerial sortie. We had the option to overfly it en route to the intended target (to be the subject of a future presentation) – and when you’re pretty much burning money as fuel, then you shoot every single thing you can. It’s not hard, since the subject matter and presentation is so different to what one normally sees on the ground anyway. Like the rest of the series from over Australia, we were around the Dirk Hartog Island/ Useless Loop/ Francois Peron National Park area, at about 1200-1500ft with the doors off a Cessna 207. No question one should not even attempt shooting dunes at anything other than the start or end of the day – whilst they might be steep, there just isn’t enough relief otherwise to bring out any texture or shadow otherwise. MT
Useless Loop, postcodes 6537, Western Australia, is located inside the UNESCO World Heritage site of Shark Bay; it’s a closed private town for the employees of the Solar Salt Operation Shark Bay – as whose name suggests, uses the sun’s heat over shallow ponds to evaporate seawater and leave behind salt. With a name like that, one can only imagine it might have been somewhat tricky to attract the initial employees. The salt pans themselves are kilometres vast, perfectly still without wind, and as glassy as a mirror. There’s a slight haze to some of them as the salinity increases and salt falls out of suspension, rendering the water murky. Each pond is at a different stage of evaporation, yet irregular in shape and fitted to the geography of the peninsula – giving the whole place the odd feeling of being like a giant insect’s wing, especially when viewed from the air. This series was shot through the open rear doors of a Cessna 203 at about 1500 feet during pretty ideal light and atmospheric conditions. Enjoy the transient colors – from the milky blues of salt reflecting clouds and sky to the deeper sea green of freshly flooded ponds, and the tans of the dams holding back the bay. I’ve always thought each individual pond felt like a window into alternate world, or perhaps the same place at a different time. MT
Today’s series is a continuation of the Australian aerials – this time exploring the abstracted textures of the coastal interface and immediately surrounding areas on both water and land. The myriad fractal textures generated by wave action are both infinitely varied and fascinating; each has its own aesthetic strengths. I actually had a very hard time curating it for this precise reason: it’s very difficult to prefer one abstract over another because each had some unique merits of its own. Nevertheless, I think the color flow works here, even if some of the finer textures can only be appreciated in a large print, including schools of marine mammals and the occasional tire track to lend a sense of scale. It also makes me wonder just how different this area would be in a few months given time and tide… MT
Today’s photoessay continues the series over Australia – specifically, the westernmost patch of the vast continent about halfway north. Most of these images were shot over the bit of water between Francois Peron National Park and Dirk Hartog Island; they weren’t the primary objective of the shoot, but still – when you’ve got this kind of variation in the water, there’s just no way you can not shoot. I’ve always been amazed by just how much the texture and feel of water changes with light direction and incremental amounts of breeze; what’s under the surface is hidden or revealed, almost regardless of depth. (The black patches are seaweed and seagrass.) I suppose it’s one of those fractal subjects that once again has the power to hold your attention for a significant amount of time because there are never two identical instants. I’ve printed several of these at 24″, and I feel that’s just the beginning of the ‘right size’ to allow the images to breathe – of course, being shot on the Hasselblad there’s plenty of scope for enlargement…enjoy! MT
One of the most unique things about the Australian landscape has always been the color of the soil – a rich orange-red that I’ve not seen anywhere else on earth – I guess it must have something to do with the rich mineral deposits. It ranges anywhere from a dull brown pre-dawn or post-dusk, or a really electric orange if the light hits things right – surface features stand out in stark relief and if three wasn’t anything recognisable as a plant, we might well think we were on the surface of Mars. It’s even more surreal from the sky, because the features hint at nothing so much as a landscape of history: suggestions of water dried and geology shifted; there’s definitely a sense of agelessness here. What came before? What comes next? We can only wonder. Perhaps there is something in the Aboriginal dreamtime mythology that might provide some guidance here – it’s easy to see where it came from. MT
This series was shot over Francois Peron National Park in Western Australia, from anywhere between 500 and 1500 feet.