Every day tour buses stop over in York on their way to Wave Rock near Hyden. The Northern Territory has Uluru (formerly known as Ayres Rock) and Western Australia’s tourism industry markets Wave Rock as our equivalent. I often feel sorry for the tourists, particularly the Chinese and Japanese ones, as they drive out from Perth to the middle of nowhere to see a large rock that looks like an enormous ocean wave frozen for posterity. I wonder what they think when they get there.
A week or so ago we went out to Hyden to visit Wave Rock. It’s not the first time we’ve visited, we first went in 2008. I find it very hard to be enthusiastic about it – it is just a curved rock face. My over all feeling is that Wave Rock is more marketing than substance. What I find more interesting is the way people interact with it. The majority of people just pull up in the car park and jump out to quickly take a selfie with their phone or a couple of seconds of video on a GoPro on one of those annoying sticks that they nearly poke someones eye out with as they are too busy on making strange faces for the camera. They then jump back into their cars and race off to the next destination on their itinerary. The next group of people are harried parents herding their bored looking children around and eventually persuading them to have their photo taken while they pretend to surf the perfect stone wave. The best was a young Chinese couple – he was shooting “glamour” photos of her while she was standing halfway up the curve in skimpy attire and the most incredible high heels – the sort that you need a ladder to get into and induce vertigo. My immediate reaction was not to perv the girl, but one of how the hell did she get up their dressed like that. The answer was obvious – when he finished taking photos he threw a bag up to her and she changed into a pair of track pants, a t-shirt and trainers and slid down on her backside.
Sixteen Kilometres north-east of Wave Rocks is The Humps Nature Reserve. It’s not a very appealing name and probably doesn’t help with marketing to the tourist hordes. The Humps are a massive granite outcrop some 2 km x 1.5 km in area and rises to 80 m above the surrounding plain which was and is of huge cultural significance to the Nyoongar people. Mulka’s Cave is a gallery for 452 motifs which makes it the largest collection in southern Western Australia.It is thought that the paintings were produced over the last two or three thousand years and it feels like the people who made them are reaching out from the past to the present day. It really reinforces the impression of spirit of place and of belonging to the land. To me this is what makes The Humps more special than Wave Rock, it engenders a feeling to that felt at Uluru or Ubirr. Powerful stuff. Mulka’s Cave is named after one of its inhabitants about which there is a gruesome Dreamtime story.
‘Mulka was the illegitimate son of a woman who fell in love with a man to whom marriage was forbidden. As a result, Mulka was born with crossed eyes. Even though he grew up to be an outstandingly strong man of colossal height, his crossed eyes prevented him from aiming a spear accurately and becoming a successful hunter. Out of frustration, Mulka turned to catching and eating human children, and he became the terror of the district. He lived in Mulka’s Cave where the impressions of his hands can still be seen much higher than those of an ordinary man. His mother became increasingly concerned with Mulka and when she scolded him for his anti-social behaviour, he turned on his own mother and killed her. This disgraced him even more and he fled the cave, heading south. Aboriginal people were outraged by Mulka’s behaviour and set out to track down the man who had flouted all the rules. They finally caught him near Dumbleyung 156 km south-west of Hyden, where they speared him. Because he did not deserve a proper ritual burial, they left his body for the ants – a grim warning to those who break the law.’
R.G.Gunn, Mulka’s Cave Aboriginal rock art site: its context and content, Records of the Western Australian Museum 23: 19-41 (2006).
There are a couple of walks in the reserve – The Gamma Trail a 1.2km interpretative walk explains the significance of the area to the local Nyoongar people, and the Kalari Trail, a 1.6 Km trail climbs to the summit. The early morning walk to the summit was fantastic. There were kangaroos amongst clumps silver princess trees (Eucalyptus caesia), nankeen kestrels were riding the thermal currents looking for prey and there were hosts of wrens bathing in the shallow pools of water on the rock surface. You get the feeling that this is a place where everything has been stripped back to the elemental essentials. Time was standing still. Of course the moment was lost as the multitudes of tourists pulled up in the car park jumped out to grab a selfie in the cave and use the toilet, their chattering voices carrying up to the summit shattering the tranquility. For a brief couple of hours on top of the humps I was somewhere else quite magical.
If you have slightly geeky bent, and to be honest if you are reading a photography blog it’s pretty much a given that you have, then Adobe’s Lightroom has several useful tools. One of the ones I’ve been looking at is the ability to look at your photographic work for a specific time frame, and in this case it’s for the year 2016. You can also look at the cameras and lenses you used for that period which enables you to see what patterns of equipment usage emerge. It might ultimately save you money i.e. if you have a hankering for an expensive lens you can look back on your past year to see if that focal length/s you used and whether the objective lens of your desires is one you’d actually use or not. This has actually happened to me – a while back I was working on my project Broncos and Bulls and I felt that the Canon EF 75-300 f4-5.6 IS was costing me shots as it wasn’t the fastest lens to focus and the images at the long end were pretty soft. I wanted a Canon 100-400 L IS but my then preferred local dealer didn’t have one in stock and after waiting nearly 3 months they informed they couldn’t get one. I allowed them to talk me into buying the Canon 70-200 f2.8 L IS with the Canon x2 converter which they had in stock. Their logic was that I’d end up using the 70-200 much more and would hardly use it combined with the teleconverter. Now looking back through my Lightroom library I can see that I’ve hardly used the 70-200 at all on its own and virtually all the times I have used it was in conjunction with the teleconverter. I should have stuck to my guns and gone to another dealer and that way I’d have a lens that met my needs gave and gave good image quality rather than put up with a convenient compromise.
So what have I deduced about my photography for 2016? Well I’ll start with commenting on 2015 – for that year over half my photographic output was shot with a DSLR (50:50 split between full frame and APS-C). In 2016 that dropped to 10% the other 90% was shot on mirrorless. The DSLR was only used for some macro work (radio controlled TTL flash), some architecture (a specialised lens) and one event where I had a crisis of confidence and didn’t think the mirrorless cameras would cope with high ISOs and low light focussing. When I look at lens usage it comes as a big surprise that one-quarter of the images were taken using adapted lenses and these with a focal range of between 15-135mm in full frame terms. Hmmm well I knew I preferred shorter lenses than
longer already, the main thing is that I enjoyed using legacy lenses and was more than happy with them in terms of image quality. I don’t have to use legacy lenses at all as I have 20 to 600mm covered by modern dedicated AF lenses. For work where it is appropriate I will use the legacy lenses because they give a certain aesthetic that I like which is a less digital and clinical look.
Well what will 2017 bring. Well for 2016 I experimented with finding a certain look. For 2017 will be more project driven as I have found the style I wanted and now want to put it to practice. There will be at least one new book (work on that has already started) and there will be some multi media projects. So exciting times indeed.
I hope for my readers that 2017 will be all that you hope and that you’ll be healthy and happy.