MY PHOTOGRAPHIC YEAR IN REVIEW
With so much of the Shoalhaven region burning, tourists who would have flocked to the area during the summer school holidays, were told to stay away. Some parts of the region were cut off completely by the fires meaning that supply trucks could not make their regular drops to the shops and supermarkets. This meant that there was considerable acrimony towards tourists that decided to visit anyway and ended up fighting for the limited resources of water and food in the stores. As a consequence of the fires, the beaches were uncommonly quiet for that time of the year.
As the end of February rolled over into March I was enjoying heading out and about taking my photographs. Clockwise from L to R – The Coolangatta Dragon | The early morning surf crew inspecting the swell | The sun sets behind Mount Coolangatta and Shoalhaven Heads | How’s the serenity?
April was the month when everyone’s universe shrank. Here in NSW our lock-down was far less strict than many. We were instructed to stay at home, but could leave to work, get essential supplies, to exercise amongst other ‘reasonable excuses’. The order explicitly stated that taking a holiday in a regional area was not a reasonable excuse. So, we had the place to ourselves for a while. I continued to take landscape photographs during this period, usually in combination with exercise – a walk on the beach or down a country lane.
I think that those of us who live in this world realised how lucky we were. We were able to continue visiting this beach throughout the year. I’ve been photographing this spot for 15 years now and it was amazing to see so many people there doing their official exercise, in the line-up. I think a lot of people rediscovered surfing during our lockdown.
I love photographing the seabirds at Gerroa. Pretty often it’s just me and them on the beach, enjoying a vibrant sunset. Seven Mile Beach is a flat and shallow beach with no drop-off at all, which means you can get glassy reflections in the sand as the tide’s going out – April 25 & June 16
By May restrictions were eased allowing cafes and restaurants to seat up to 10 people at a time and five visitors were allowed in each household. Then at the start of June the ban on regional holidays was removed and the camping grounds and caravan parks were allowed to re-open. Tourists started trickling back into the region and, it has to be said, while businesses that relied on tourists were relieved, the locals were not quite as supportive!
Along with my new camera, I treated myself to a big telephoto lens – the XR100-400mm which, on my mirrorless camera, gives me an effective maximum focal length of 600mm. That size zoom is a great asset for photographing birds. September 11, September 12, September 14.
As we moved into spring we had some extremely changeable weather, including a record-breaking deluge of rain in early August. By September things had calmed down a bit and I was out exploring the local landscapes with my camera.
These are some of my favourite kinds of shots to take. They’re taken with an extremely low aperture so that the lens is wide open. This creates a very narrow focal plane in which only a small slice of the image is in focus. So if you shoot wide open in front of a rising sun and focus on some dune grass you get this awesome effect. October 4, October 5, October 12.
One of my happy places is the boat ramp at the bottom end of Hay Avenue in Shoalhaven Heads. As you can see, it’s great place to capture the setting sun over water and I’ve captured some of my favourite photos in this exact spot. Sometimes you get lucky with the sky and crepuscular rays light the way – October 5.
The ever-changing mood of Seven Mile Beach has figured much more heavily than usual in my photography this year, due entirely to CovID. It’s going to be weird, when we finally kick into touch some time in 2021, to be able to travel freely again without worrying that you’re walking into some hotspot. But we had it pretty damned easy here in NSW and more widely in Australia. Even with the problems in Victoria, Australia’s CovID stats are pretty amazing. Part of this is down to the measures put in place by our political leaders, part of it is down to the widely spread geography and population and a huge chunk of it is just pure dumb luck. I counted my blessing every time I was at this beach, able to experience this stuff.
As we headed towards the end of the year, restrictions continued to ease here in N.S.W. It’s pretty evident by now that this global pandemic has revealed the very best and the very worst in people. The very best are of course those people working in healthcare who have put their own lives on the line repeatedly caring for people with the illness. And the very worst were those people who bought into the deluded fantasy that the virus was fake and in so-doing endangered the lives of their fellow citizens. If I hope for one thing in 2021, it’s that we find a way of cutting out the cancer of conspiracy fantasies and paranoid bullshit like anti-vaxx, big reset and climate-change denial and, since day-dreams cost nothing, I’d also like a world in which we weren’t governed by the politics of hate on the far-right – December 3.