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Dark Point ages

December 15, 2016  •  3 Comments

In October I stopped off at one of my favourite locations in the Myall Lakes National Park and spent an hour or so wandering with a camera and a wide angle lens and nothing particular in mind except to find things that looked interesting.

I was returning from a couple of days spent photographing in the Port Stephens area with friends Des and Roy. Turning off the Pacific Highway on my way north, I headed towards Tea Gardens then Hawks Nest then on to the coast road to Bombah Point in the national park.  The expansive dune complex at Dark Point was my destination. I arrived at midday, not the most attractive time of day, light-wise, for the landscape photographer. However, when traveling, one often has to take things as they come at whatever time of day it may be.

I made photographs of a number of dune studies, appreciating the minimalism and starkness of the landscape. And that was that. I had no particular use in mind for the images at the time of making them, but knew that a few would survive the cull when I reviewed them on my computer

If you've read the two blog posts preceding this one, you'll know that my interest in the Myall Creek massacre has been kindled recently (see Myall Creek Part 1 and Myall Creek Part 2). I want to make some photographs that express my feelings about that infamous incident in Australia's past, but I don't yet have the photographic materials that I need to work that project through. In the meantime, however, I can work through some ideas with materials that I have already collected.

While browsing my catalogue of images I came across the image below and thought "I can do something with that". Perhaps I reached that conclusion simply because this image shares some things in common with the Myall Creek massacre: the location name 'Myall'; and the fact that it's a place of significance to Indigenous Australians.

Imagined vision and the expressive process

I'll walk you through the ideas that the scene below can conjure in my mind, and just one approach that I might take to express them in a scene constructed from photographic captures and imagined seeing. My ideas and process may seem crude or fanciful but that's how I work. I don't claim to have any higher order intellectual or artistic way of doing things. All I do is let ideas flow and see which of them work for me in expressing what I visualise. I would class the Photoshop techniques used in creating the final composite image as 'basic'—that is, requiring only a basic level of skill to accomplish in Photoashop.

Image 1: The shifting sands at Dark Point have engulfed some trees that stand like totems in a wasteland. Beyond the sandy horizon lies the coast and the bounty of the sea. Dark Point is a place of significance to the Indigenous Worimi people. Beyond the horizon are the remains of middens attesting to the Indigenous peoples's long association with the place. The skeletal trees in this photograph can be a metaphor for a tribal group of Worimi people; the encroaching sand as a metaphor for time...history...the past...burial...extinguishment.

This image becomes the background layer of the composite; the bedrock upon which the visualised image is constructed.

Technical note: The dark corners of the image (vignetting) have been caused by a polarising filter that I fitted to the lens. The filter was not large enough to fully clear the field of view of the zoom lens at its widest setting and the metal ring surrounding the filter has encroached into the frame.

(Untitled)Engulfed trees—Myall Lakes NP1/350th @ f8 & 14mm ISO 100

Image 2: Mist rises above the slightly rippled waters of Lake Inverell on a spring morning. I like the darker bands across the top and bottom of the image and the ethereal mood between them. I imagine that these will contribute a pleasing textural effect to the work. In Photoshop, this image will be overlaid on the background (bedrock) using the 'Overlay' blend mode and an opacity of 100%.

Mist backgroundMist background—Lake Inverell1/1000th @ f11 & 600mm ISO 400

Image 3: A sandstone wall with remnants of applied paint at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. This image, too, was chosen for its textural quality and its vertical bars of colour that can resonate with the verticals of the trees in the dune photograph. It will be placed under the mist image in the Photoshop layer stack and blended at an opacity of 100% using the 'Soft light' blend mode.

(Untitled) Cockatoo IslandSandstone wall at Cockatoo Island—Sydney)1/15th @ f5.6 & 24mm ISO 100 + tripod

Image 4: The bushfire-charred trunk of a eucalypt beside the Macintyre River at Paradise (upstream of Inverell). The characteristics of this image that work for me are: the blackness of the charcoal; the verticals that, again, resonate with the trees in the dune image; the symbolism of fire, that was an important component of land management for the Indigenous people; the tessellated texture as a metaphor for cracked earth, age or withering (of a culture). This image was placed below the Cockatoo Island texture and also blended withe the background dune image using 'Soft light' blend mode and an opacity of 100%.

Burnt tree trunkBurnt tree trunk. Macintyre River—near Inverell1/350th @ f5.6 & 600mm ISO 1600 The finished image: "Dark Point ages"

I wanted to create an image with a sense of history and respectful acknowledgement of a culture that, unfortunately, does not exist today with the richness it once had.  There are no intentional cues in the image that attribute blame or value judgement. It's an expression of the ideas that have occurred to me. The viewer will find their own meaning...or nothing.

(Untitled)Dark Point agesDune study at Dark Point, Myall Lakes National Park.

I would photograph an idea rather than an object, a dream rather than an idea — Man Ray (1890-1976)


Chris Prior(non-registered)
Now that is art.
Dan Norton(non-registered)
I loved the creation when I first saw it, and appreciate it even more having read how it was composed. Brilliant Rob!
Des Crawley(non-registered)
Thank you the time, effort and inclusiveness with this image and the back story of its evolution. As you know I use textures and multiple exposure techniques to advance ideas, to express, to create. I would be very pleased to have this image in my portfolio. As the quote from Man Ray states making images of dreams is a wonderful and rewarding creative journey. How more so when one of the metaphors at work in Dark Point is the 'dreaming' of Aboriginal lore and traditions. Your work is syncretic. It is profound.
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