FAVOURITE IMAGES AND STORIES
Every picture has a story behind it, why it moved me, why I remember one more vividly than another. Usually, a small mishap during the shoot helped push a given image to the forefront of my memories. Often, it was a combination of visual and circumstantial emotions.
I have made a small selection of some of my favourite images, which was a very difficult task.
Not all photography is easy and relaxing, as we'll see in these anecdotes.
Lake Argyle, Kununurra, Western Australia
Perched on the top of a hill above the lake was a Robinson R44, so my partner and I arranged a sunset flight with the pilot.
As we flew along, we heard a dull pop-pop from the rotor, and the chopper dropped several feet. Without missing a beat, the pilot cheerily said he didn’t like what he had heard, perhaps we had hit a pelican, and we were going to land sharpish on a tiny island below just to check.
Within a minute we had landed and, with the rotor still going, the pilot hopped out to give it the once over. No evidence of a bird hit was found, so we took off again in a cloud of dust. We’d done an emergency landing and lived to tell the tale!
Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia
To start with, I love the word ‘billabong’. It evokes vast wetlands in the Australian wilderness, with birdlife and crocs galore, bathed by glorious sunrises and sunsets and mysterious mists.
We started at dawn on the cruise. A splash of red clouds lit up the mists swirling above the still waters. The sun rose from pink to red to orange to intense yellow as we cruised to see the crocs, the pelicans, white-bellied sea-eagles and jabirus.
Maxxie, a very large male saltie, cast an eye over us. He had just been in the news when pictures appeared of him crunching down on the head and brain of a younger croc that entered his territory. For a week or so Maxxie had chewed his way through his neighbour’s body.
Milky Way over Devil's Marbles, Northern Territory, Australia
Camped just by the site of curious circular shaped red granite boulders known as the Devil’s Marbles, I waited for the night to be dark enough and headed into the cold wind.
I set up my tripod at a spot where the Milky Way soared above the intriguing rock formations. I was helped by the stray light from campers lighting up the rocks and trees.
Lake Ballard, Western Australia
Lake Ballard is the beautiful Outback location for Antony Gormley’s art installation. It is a remote place of quiet solitude, where I found myself in perfect harmony with the bush.
Our lone campervan looked incongruous in the red sand. Peace, stillness and silence reigned. We tuned in to the small desert animals' sounds, aware of our surroundings. A friendly sand monitor padded around us, flicking his tongue for treats. Fluffy clouds rolled across the bush.
Suddenly, huge cumulo-nimbus clouds appeared: storms were threatening on the horizon. We battened down the campsite beside the lake, just us and the rushing wind bearing thunder and lightning flashes. In a flash, rain pelted down, releasing the pungent scents of earth and eucalyptus, water pooling in swirling torrents past the lakeshore out to the lake surface that was dry and cracked only an hour before.
Early evening, the bright moon shone over a horizon constantly dotted with sheets of rolling lightning parted by jagged spears of light, an amazing spectacle of nature.
Horizontal Falls, Western Australia
There was no incident there, only pure awe. Our floatplane took us across the wilds of Buccaneer Archipelago, a web of remote islands stretched out below. We later transferred to a doorless helicopter to survey the mudflats.
We took a sweep over Horizontal Falls, a dramatic tidal phenomenon where 1.6 million litres of water rush through two rock passage narrows every second. The 11 metre tides are the second highest in the world. The water trying to push through is so powerfully backed up by the tides that the falls stand up to four metres high. David Attenborough described this as “One of the greatest natural wonders of the world”.
Floatplane Adventure, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
Aboard a floatplane, we flew out above the early morning mist, over creeks and mangroves, down to Sweets Lagoon. After 25 minutes, we were banking hard to come in for landing on the billabong.
Dawn was just breaking and mist was drifting magically above waterways and trees. We cruised majestically in a loop around the billabong, past whistling kites perched on palms, cormorants sunning with open wings, and kingfishers darting past.
And now onto Wildlife
Bird photography a doddle? Think twice. I had countless incidents. Here's an extract from 'the Challenges of Bird Photography' from my 'Wings of the World' book.
Deep in a forest in Finland, at sub-zero temperatures, it's a pre-dawn trek to the bird hide through the deep snow.
After several hours of waiting, a female goshawk finally lands. This is when, from the corner of my eye, I spot my sleeping bag on fire in the cramped hide.
The Pantanal in Brazil, a swamp as big as Switzerland, is a bird paradise. Not so much for cars though. There is a plethora of rickety wooden bridges to go over, most of them missing numerous planks.
They are designed for the cattle ranch trucks. My small car can only have two wheels on a plank. I gingerly press the accelerator. A horrible crashing noise ensues underneath us and the car partially falls through. We're suspended in mid-air.
Until just before midnight, we're busy repairing bridges as we go along, putting one plank before the wheels before proceeding. In doing so, my torchlight catches the red eyes of dozens of caimans below.
It is 4 a.m. Hiking on a muddy and very steep slope in the Peruvian rainforest, we have to get to the lek before sunrise. We're hoping to watch the cock-of-the-rock display.
As I settle down on a tiny wooden platform with my equipment, the rotten logs suddenly give way. I have a split second to catch my tripod with my right hand and a branch with my left hand, leaving me dangling on a 45 degrees slope in total darkness.
So, is it all worth it?
I have been stung by wasps, have known the agony of the bite inflicted by the most dreaded ant in Australia, the bull ant, have been eaten alive by hordes of voracious mosquitoes, have sunk twice in a boat in Brazil, have been under attack by army ants in the Amazon, got stranded in the Australian Outback, have become a beach shack castaway in the Kimberley, got dropped from a helicopter for a day long hike back to base camp through torrid bushland, all in the name of photography.
Worth it? Absolutely. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I let you be the judge of the results.