The Hills Are Alive…

…  with flowers. Definitely not Julie Andrews and the ghastly singing Von Trapps.

When people think about Australian biodiversity and nature hot spots they automatically think of the rainforests of North Queensland, Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory or Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park in Tasmania. If prodded a little bit Western Australians might mention the Stirling Ranges National Park. But what if I were to tell you that there is a very significant region of biodiversity, a landscape that is still in its pristine state (i.e. has never been cleared) that is less than two hours drive from Perth? That it contains more than 1400 species of flowering plant, 24 of which are unique and not found anywhere else, there are 78 different species of bird, and there are ancient Aboriginal artefacts. So where is this place? Wongan Hills.

The name Wongan Hills comes from the Nyoongar Wongan Katta which means talking or whispering hills. The range of hills, which are about 10 north-west of the townsite are the largest single area of natural vegetation remaining in the northern wheatbelt. It is spring when everything happens – there is a truly spectacular display of wildflowers. I focus on native orchids and it is absolutely gobsmacking the number of different species and the sheer quantity of them. In the space of a morning’s walk around we found ten different species and they were totally new to me. Below are the fruits of that trip.

 

Pink Candy Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Pink Candy Orchid, Caladenia hirta subsp. rosea. Christmas Rock, Wongan Hills, Western Australia.Exposure: manual 1/125 s at f/8.0, Iso 200. Olympus OMD EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens, TTL fill flash provided by Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash.

 

Chameleon Spider Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Chameleon Spider Orchid, Caladenia dimidia. Christmas Rock, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro lens, with Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: aperture priority 1/80 s at f/8.0 with -1 stop exposure compensation and TTL flash.

 

Yellow Spider Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Yellow Spider Orchid, Caladenia denticulata subsp. denticulata. Christmas Rock, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Exposure: manual 1/160th sec, f8, ISO 200 with TTL flash. Olympus OMD EM1, OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens, Metz mecablitz 15 MS-1 ringflash.

 

 

Salt Lake Spider Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Salt lake spider orchid ( Caladenia exilis subsp. exilis). Roger’s Reserve, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens and Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: Manual mode, 1/250 s at f/8.0 ISO 200.

 

 

Clown Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Clown orchid (Caladenia roei) also known as ant orchid, man orchid and jack-in-the-box orchid. Christmas Rock, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens and Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: aperture priority 1/50 s at f/8.0 at ISO 200 with -1 stop exposure compensation.

 

 

Mottled Donkey Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Mottled donkey orchid, Diursis sp. ‘Wyalkatchem’. Christmas Rock, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens. Exposure: aperture priority mode 1/80 s at f/8.0 ISO 200 with -1 stop exposure compensation and flash from Metz 15MS-1 ring flash.

 

 

Yellow Granite Donkey Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Yellow Granite Donkey Orchid, Diursis hazelii. Mount Matilda, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens and Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: Manual mode 1/100 s at f/4.0 ISO 200.

 

 

Sugar Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Sugar Orchid, Ericksonella saccharata. Mount Matilda, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens and Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: Manual mode, 1/80 s at f/5.6 ISO 200.

 

 

Dainty Donkey Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Dainty donkey orchid, Diuris sp. ‘north-western wheatbelt’. Rogers Reserve, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens and Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: aperture priority with -2 stops exposure compensation 1/125 s at f/5.6 ISO 200.

 

 

Crimson Spider Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Crimson spider orchid, Caladenia footeana. Rogers Reserve, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens and Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: Manual mode, 1/200 s at f/8.0 ISO 200.

 

 

The Grass Is Greener

Diamond Princess by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The Diamond Princes at dawn in Hobart Harbour.

 

 

 

“Few things are as exciting as the idea of travelling somewhere else. But the reality of travel seldom matches our daydreams.”

Alain de Botton

 

I’ve never been a fan of mass tourism, but over the last few weeks I’ve been reading a lot about the negative aspects of it and in particular with what is happening to Venice. Apparently as many as 44,000 cruise ship passengers pour into Venice a day during the high season. That’s roughly 5 cruise liners worth. When we lived in Tasmania we’d get the boats pull into Hobart Harbour, thankfully just one at a time, and the passengers would be like a tsunami as they headed for Salamanca. I hate to think what 5 times that number would be like.  Along with the negative impact that has on the local population and the environment there is also the fact would you really want to visit somewhere with another 44,000 people? It’s hardly getting away from it all is it? Then there is the whole thing of “Right you’ve got six hours in port and then we’re off to the next location”. Six hours following several other thousand people all traipsing round the same location, looking at the same few things only to herded up at the end of the day and taken somewhere else to do exactly the same thing the next day. It’s a gross version of the 1969 film “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium”. It’s worthy of Dante’s vision of hell. So why do people do it and pay a fortune for the privilege? Essentially people do it because they are bored with the ordinariness of their life and want something out of the ordinary with a touch of luxury.

When I lectured in photography one of the most common complaints from students was that there was nothing to photograph in Perth or Western Australia. They wanted something new, something exciting something that they’d never seen before. The problem was photography’s history encourages that kind of thinking – we only have to look at the photographic tradition of the road trip established by the likes of Robert Frank and his eponymous book The Americans with its hip introduction by Jack Kerouac. Stephen Shore and Alec Soth amongst  others have popularised it to the extent that it has almost become a photographic rite of passage. Indeed at a portfolio review at FotoFreo my reviewer actually said I should go on a road trip as a means of finding myself. But the thing is booking a package holiday to Bali or Vietnam is not going to work as  all you will see are the usual tourist attractions and maybe you’ll take some photos of poor third world people. Invariably you return home and the photos get ignored and languish in a dark recess on your computer hard drive as they look the same as everyone else’s. They are not out of the ordinary. The British philosopher and writer Alain de Botton in his book The Art of Travel said  “Then I realised that the problem with going away is that you take yourself with you.”

I would suggest that if you want to produce interesting work look to the ordinary and easily accessible. Many photographers have taken this path.  Robert Adams documents the changing American landscape and in particular the spread of suburbia. Chris Killip, Sally Mann, and Larry Towell  are all photographers who have done projects about ordinary things on their door steps and have produced extraordinary images. The American photographer Minor White once said “…all photographs are self-portraits.” so there is no need to travel to find your self just keep exploring with your camera. The frequent retort from my students was that everything around them had been photographed before well White also had an answer for that “Everything has been photographed. Accept this. Photograph things better.”.

So what have I been doing photographically for the last week? Well I’ve been out to some local nature reserves, I’ve visited them many times over the last 14 years and it never ceases to amaze me that I always find something new. So I was delighted to find these two flowers.

 

Jug Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Jug orchid aka recurved shell orchid (Pterostylis recurva). Olympus OMD EM10 with Olympus m.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro lens and Metz ring flash. Exposure: 1/160th sec, f5.6, ISO 200 aperture priority with -1.3 stops exposure compensation.

 

 

Sugar Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Sugar orchid (Ericksonella saccharata). Olympus OMD EM10 with Olympus m.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro lens and Metz ring flash. Exposure: aperture priority 1/125th sec, f4, ISO 100 with -1 stop exposure compensation.