Cast your mind back to 2020, deep in our Covid-19 Pandemic, of empty public spaces - squares, stations and streets...
everyone locked inside, isolated from one another.
Roped off benches in public parks, swings deserted, eerily still. The sun shone bright but we were still afraid to venture too far.
It created a fear of everything and everyone around us.
We emptied out of offices, in favor of our own save havens; our homes.
We stopped taking public transport.
We stopped congregating, we stopped socializing.
All the spaces that were once built for our transport, our interactions, our conveniences lay abandoned, bare and barren.
This is Liminal.
Liminal space is defined as the space between what was, and what is yet to be. Leaving one place, for a new, not unlike leaving a job for a new one, that space where you've finished, and are yet to begin again, is liminal space.
For the purpose of this article, I'm only looking at Liminal Spaces in Photography - the images of the modern world without the people in them. That uneasy feeling of being alone in a vast space, amplified.
If you remember 2020 as vividly as I do, then the idea of Liminal Spaces will not be all that unfamiliar as it once might have been.
Liminal spaces don't always have to be totally empty, deserted spaces, all of the time. Sometimes a place can be liminal at certain times of the day.
Photography of Liminal Spaces is often low-fi, low quality and poorly lit. It's not always meant to be highly polished, but why not?
Throw in some grain - it adds to the spook factor, throw in a vignette, it's the walls closing in... throw in an unrecognizable figure, and it's the guy in our dreams coming back for us.
Think carparks in your local CBD, at night.
Think of airports closing down for the evening,
Nightclubs in the morning
Or what about, National Parks at night?
Places that we see people flocking into on the best-weathered day, spaces reserved for busloads of tourists, and paths less traversed.
I shot this series at Cradle Mountain National Park in Tasmania in 2021. I had fog on my mind all night, and not wanting to miss my alarm, I had kept waking up feeling like I had. Eventually around 5am, I gave up on sleep. I got up, dressed, quietly grabbed my equipment and drove into the park. Leaving the car at Ronnies Creek carpark and began to walk around. There was a light mist, which occasionally descended into a fog, the moon was bright and the stars were out. I was the only one in the park.
I could hear nothing, the occasional drop of water and the babbling of the creek.
After a few minutes, the sheer lonliness and quietness of the solace got into my head.
My mind began racing as it reasoned that I was the. only. one. here.
I began taking photos of the way the available light played with my surroundings. Here is the results;
A descending coolness greeted me as I moved away from the car. I was particularly taken by the vividness of the crosswalk and the way the puddle intersected with it. It was stunning to see the fog move through the valley.
I turned slightly to my right to see the moonlight streaming through the trees. I was taken by the way the light fell on the road.
The light from the Rangers' Station glowed through the trees and even felt menacing in its distance.
I set off on a walk up and around to Waldheim, wet in the fallen dew, briefly illuminated by the moonlight behind my shoulder. I felt as if I had stumbled upon these Pandanii huddling together.
Fog forms around me, I turn back briefly to see it gathering from whence I came. The snaking path getting longer and longer behind me, with each passing step.
Dawn is approaching, the sky is getting lighter. I know now that if there's any atmospheric drivers, the fog will form as the sun rises, it has to.
Puffs of fog form and linger, then with one suggestion of breeze, shift and disappear.
The fog has shifted, it drifts across the treeline as it seeks out pockets of cold.
9. Gaining Distance
In an attempt to get a more-dramatic view of the drifting fog, I hike up to the closest hill, and again , looking back, watch it dance on its stage.
10. Caw of The Crow
As morning awakens, the wildlife stirs and the sky lightens. The stars fade and the fog evaporates.
And that, as they say, is that.
Roaming the park at night was a luxury few can afford to do. Of course, I know the parts of the park pretty well and felt confident doing this. Safety first always, if you are unsure of where you are, or the safety of such, please take someone with you.
There's a dedicated Reddit to Liminal Spaces... Liminal Spaces (Reddit)
This blog "Liminal Spaces in the Era of Realizing False Promises" has some really beautiful modern, liminal imagery.
The backrooms are a series of low-fi clips that are filmed in places that feel familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. Large, open spaces, offices perhaps, light and shadow conspiring to create a horror film with nothing but the videographers paranoia... Fluro-lit and windowless spaces that feel like they should be occupied by an army of humans, instead depicting an empty-nest scenario. Our feelings of these spaces are amplified by the unusual lighting, the sickly-green and yellow spaces, devoid of context as to where we really are.
What makes The Backrooms clip so powerful is its believability. Generic, empty spaces could be imagined to be in a hallway, a hotel, an airport or other familiar places. It's a beautiful study of the banal and how the human mind plays tricks to try and explain the situation. There's nothing inherently scary, other than the continuation of the banality, a exit never found, a reason never reasoned.
I wasn't going to do a Retrospective for this year, why? I didn't feel like anyone was reading.
But then I remembered why I wanted to do these in the first place, if not for anyone else, but something for me, to reflect.
And when I started pulling apart the moments of my 2021 Photography journey, I realized there's actually a lot of great stuff in here, and thats worth mentioning, so here goes.
I've definitely lived in my head a little more than usual. There's been many curveballs this year and some of them hurt a little harder than most. The biggest struggle of the year was motivating to keep taking photos in my local area, and while I love it in winter, in summer its a barren moonscape of heat and deadly animals.
The photographs I've taken this year have a definite street angle, definitely more black and white and for certain a feeling of doing my own thing at my own pace. My other job has had me chaotically busy for the last 2 years, so come any downtime and the first urge has been to vegetate on the couch with the dogs and truly just rest. I've missed many a cool storm from being rosterered on, unable to fly the coop early to catch some great clouds or lightning action. It's been really frustrating but I'm pledging that in 2022 I'll find the balance again. I'm going to get a new camera so hopefully that'll punch up the enthusiasm to 1000.
Thank you also to the camera clubs that had me talk and judge this year. It does mean a lot and I'm always happy to give my feedback on images and help grow the community. Thank you to the organisers of the Queensland Camera Group, Brisbane Camera Club and the Gold Coast Photographic Society for having me on board, I've absolutely enjoyed it.
I started January a bit behind with my usual first sunrise of the year. It was about 3 days later before I got to doing that, and this year looks no different. That said it wasn't anything special and I spent the last few days of my holiday exploring a local area, chasing storms and watching kangaroos jump through paddocks.
I don't know what happened in February... it seems I only went out once to do some street photography. Nothing worth ranting about, but so that we have an image for February;
A continuation of the street photography theme. I had begun to explore some of the modern architecture in the old town that I live. I'm fascinated with colours, lines, shapes and seeing how I can manipulate those to create something brain-bending.
By far this was my busiest month. I shot a gig for RockFit and I made it to Tasmania and back (without quarantining) for Fagus Week. By far a highlight and I'd forgotten all of the things about travel. I got bored on the 3hr plane flight, I realised how much I hated airports and I got all the nostalgia from just that. I came back with 400g of luggage weight to spare and the even better part is that I finally snagged the win in The Cow and Calf Cup, a trophy among us Fagus week faithfuls that rewards the best straight out of camera (sooc) image. Will covid let me back to Tasmania next year to defend the title?!
Lots happened in May as well, fog season had well and truly rolled in by now and I was back to my usual haunts for new images and lots of more foggy piccy goodness. One day stood out in particular, the fog was so thick on the highway, that I knew when the lights ended, it would be so dark, and so foggy that Id only be able to see a metre or two in front of me. Knowing I had a 40min drive in that, I chickened out. What I did observe though, was a petrol station sign bleeding its LCD light into the atmosphere around it. Augmented by the fog, it was eerie to say the least. I have made it a mini-mission to try and get more of this next season.
June marks the second time I left the state. A small window of opportunity arose in a polar low crossing over the northern tablelands of NSW. Back when borders were still freely-crossable, I darted down to Tenterfield late one night and stayed in a motel, got up, found snow, drove around cautiously but high on energy and an eagerness that I'd not had since Tasmania. I met up with my dear friend Vikki late one afternoon in Glen Innes and we re-chased some favourite parts of Ben Lomond until the sun darn near set on us. It was a 24hrs of power on my part and a serious impressive 12hrs of power on Vikki's part, but wow it was so much fun and worth it. Thanks to Vikki's indestructible 4WD for getting us through the last part, where my street-worthy 4wd would have suffered.
Another quiet month on the back of three very hectic ones! I shot another gig for RockFit and got to Lake Moogerah, again, in the search of fog, but alas I was fooled and left with a scenic.
Still feeling some photographic lethargy here, I shot some small finches/sparrows in my neighbours front fence, I got to go on a fog-chase to Marburg and got my head stuck in the clouds.
This month, I had a loan of a Nikon Z6ii and got to take it for a spin around town. I took a few street-style images, it went on a fog chase with me and I was resolved to buy one by the end of the year, but all of a sudden it was december and I hadn't done it yet. I don't talk at all about my regular dayjob (i'd bore you to death) but that just seemed to go psychotic in September and the months between that and December are a blur.
Amongst the madness, I found out that I'd won the Places category of The Mono Awards which was a total surprise. You can read about it on my blog.
Another quiet one, some last patches of fog appearing in my local area and some minimal pics of sticks in a pond forming interesting shapes. I had a quick trip down to Stanthorpe for the weekend with my mum to see the opening of the Stanthorpe Regional Photography Awards of which I was selected with 2 works as a finalist. I ended up selling Pick-Up Sticks as well. Mum and I visted Girraween national park for a walk early one morning, but soon realised it was too hot to be doing such an intense walk. Still, some pretty photos of the creeks full of water and the plant life looking swish.
The final Rockfit for the year! Such energy in this one, the energy, the sweat, the moments were awesome. I really enjoy doing these events and love the trust that I have been given to capture the event in the best way I can.
I also ventured out to an old favourite location, the Woodlands of Marburg road and its famous tree!
I struggled to realise it was December until easily a week before Christmas. This year has gone too fast and I was just whiplashed by that. Some severe storms rolled through and I had a moments chance to take some pics before we got heavily rained on.
Sorry it's been a short one this year, both in pictures and in text. I hope to do more next year.
Without a doubt, this has got to be the coolest thing of 2021 to happen, winning the Places Category of The Mono Awards.
To say I'm elated, is an understatement. To say that it was unexpected, is definitely the truth.
Entering photography competitions is never a given formula, never an expected result. I enter my images into disparate competitions throughout the world in the hopes of ensnaring the top prizes, just like everyone else does. Sometimes though, you have an image that just transcends the rest in the collection and speaks to people on different levels. I've always thought this image stands by itself in an artistic sense, through sheer volume of subject, it overwhelms, yet in a controlled sense.
I am forever thankful that the judges found my image 'mesmerising' and decided to award it the top prize.
If you were one of the lucky ones at the Brisbane Camera Group on September 13th, you've already heard me talk about this one.
(It's worthy to note that I love talking at camera clubs, so if you're an organiser of one and would like to have me come speak, drop me a line on my Contact page)
In this blog I wanted to share with you the backstory to this image, beyond what I can say in a caption or blurb for the awards.
This image was taken on the Icefields Parkway somewhere between Jasper and Banff, its exact location currently escapes me.
It was not the first time that I had demanded the vehicle driver to safely pull to the side of the road ( the translation of course is, "HOLY CRAP, STOP THE CAR NOOOWWWW, I NEED THAT SHOT") , so that I could get out and grab a shot. We had driven past this scene and several like it, so many times over the course of our trip to Canada, specifically from Alberta to Jasper and back.
It wasn't the only scene that had captured my attention, there was so many examples of scenes similar and different to this, in varying light conditions and times of day;
At the time, I thought the reason that the trees had fallen was somewhat innocent; logging, bushfire, loss of root structure. Indeed I am not an Arborist or a tree doctor of any kind, but being from Australia I thought the "why" for these trees was a lot softer than the real explanation.
Someone had said in passing, while I was in Canada in late 2019, "It's not fire and snow', 'It's a beetle infestation.' On getting home and starting to enter this image in competitions, forced me to look into a little more.
It was the Mountain Pine Beetle Infestation, and you can read a little more about it here; and here(and several other articles online if you google the term)
It is of course, a found scene.
This is the same scene as my winning image, except at 70mm;
Can you see where my shot was taken?
As you can see, the scene itself is fairly monochromatic just by itself. It's mostly a shade of tan, white and blue, which in itself is complimentary.
From the images I've taken, I've decided to market both the Mono version of the image, and the coloured, which is of the same title; Pick-Up Sticks, but with the added word "Ink."
Pick-Up Sticks Ink is Mono's twin sister, similar in almost every way, but with a different personality.
Ink is named for the familiar smell of a biro pen, likened to the old art of telephone doodling. I found the right shade of blue and I instantly smelt the familiar inky odor, it was a little spooky to be honest, to be able to mess with that olfactory sense.
What to you think?
Do the images speak to you in a strange way?
Tell me your thoughts below!
A few weeks ago, I got the chance again to chase snow on the Northern New South Wales, Northern Tablelands! It only happens once every few years where the snow is thick enough to photograph, so I was elated when I was able to cash in a day off and check out the rural scenes that are normally deep shades of brown and earthy greens, coated in pure white magic!
The allure is to catch a scene that otherwise wouldn't be available to us Queenslanders, we're not exactly known for having a snowy environment in winter, so a few hours drive is the best we get. It's not without its sacrifices though, I left home in Brisbane to get to Tenterfield the night before, so that in the case of good snow, I could drive the backroads to Glen Innes and beyond in the early morning, before all the families had a chance to stomp the snow.
It's become quite a strange tourism drawcard too, parents tend to take their kids out of class for a day and go and chase the snow, however much falls of it, the snowmen around the place are a testament to that!
As it hadn't really snowed much around Glen Innes, I headed for Ben Lomond. The New England highway was closed for a section or two, but fortunately I had already sussed out a backroad that would get me where I wanted to be. The rest of the day was a basic hunt and shoot, seeing the landscape coated in snow, finding the little sneaky backroads and searching for things to photograph.
Though a busy scene, I really loved the way the snow looked shot against a dark background - the green clumps of eucalyptus trees. There was just something about it.
2020 needs no introduction. We know its been one of the strangest, most disconcerting years thus far. I'm not going to touch on the bad parts of the year, rather, the good bits that came from a time more introverted than ever. While my inner introvert loved the isolation and time to work on my own projects, I yearned for the action of chasing down a new location and exploring places I hadn't yet been.
Now, we know that we've made sacrifices and that life has changed for a while.
We're a little more cautious, more suspecting, a little less free and very much still wondering what's around the corner.
Of all the years that I've been capturing the landscape, this is definitely one of the most quiet. But for good reason.
Each year that I've written a retrospective, it's been a photo from each month. It's been a bit more about the travels, the people, the adventures and loving that along the way.
This year, for me, has been about rediscovering my local spots, the ones that I shot years ago before I fully discovered the wider world. Those places that I finely tuned my craft on. The places that just feel like home, even though they aren't.
When Australia was put into lockdown at the end of March, the message was "stay at home, stay in your suburb, only go out if you have to." so naturally, living in the suburbs, I didn't have access to much.
Gyms closed and as winter crept in, we all started sleeping in. Some epic fogs painfully came and went, travel restrictions were unclear and travelling was heavily restricted.
Around April, we were advised that we could travel up to 50km from our place of residence. There was restrictions on how many people could be in the home, and around the time of my birthday, this was only around 2 people. Needless to say it was a quiet one. More time was spent on the couch than ever before, and photography reflected whatever I could find in my garden or around the house.
The borders closing to Tasmania killed off my trip to Fagus week, our flights, accommodation and car hire all cancelled. Thankfully, I had planned for 2020 to be a year of local exploration, so I did not have to fight international flights to be refunded. This however meant that I kept working at my other job throughout the lockdown and never really had to leave the house for weeks on end except to do groceries. The introvert in me loved it. THe landscape photographer part of me hated it, I wanted to be out, creating and exploring.
Towards June/July/August those distances were revised and these opened up access to my old photography locations out West of Brisbane. I began sacrificing those sleep-ins for some much needed exploration. I gave an online presentation to the AIPP about my Landscape photography and creative journey which was a lot of fun. It was also when I produced most of the foggy landscapes that I have in my portfolio this year.
September / October / November and thus far December has been pretty quiet, save for a few storms that have come past. While I still love the storms, I haven't been chasing at all this season, rather, just capturing what I can from a few local spots. I'll continue to do this throughout summer, driving backroads and exploring all over again. Here's hoping with the rain it'll finally be moister and more potential for capturing rainforest scenes again.
In 2021? More of the same. Some domestic travel is on the whiteboard for Tasmania in April and possibly another state in October/November next year. I won't be rushing overseas until this madness settles down, and will instead spend my money in my home country.
For now, without order or formality, here's my favourite images to come out of this year!