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TERRA AUSTRALIS (March 2015)

From mid-January through till the end of February I was in southeast Australia.  Aside from the need to escape winter and my lifelong North American working existence, the idea of travelling to this part of the planet had always appealed to me as a potential photographic pilgrimage.  

My time there spanned little over a month, and I still feel as though I’ve barely glimpsed the smallest morsel of this vast island continent (I plan to return next month before my travels are finished), but it’s already revealed a seemingly infinite myriad of texture, form, colour and movement.  


 From any distance – whether it's miles, meters or microns – the Australian landmass and its diverse lifeforms possess an astonishing beauty.  

 

After landing, my immediate experience of the country was the intense urban bustle of downtown Sydney in its busiest time of year.  Not a huge difference from Toronto or Montreal where I’ve just come from, but a welcome change regardless, especially since it’s summertime in this hemisphere.

Access to a view of the awesome harbour from its famous bridge during peak season offered me a great opportunity for a  boat time-lapse shot: something I’ve been wanting to capture properly since I began shooting slow-speed video.  I assembled a short movie of the footage, together with a view of Pittwater Bay (just north of the city, viewed from the house I stayed at my first 3 nights in the area).  

 

After exploring the areas around Sydney, I took a flight to Melbourne, Australia’s other major metropolis. I had a truly excellent time and made a pile of new friends, but the city didn’t seem to have the same potential for anthropological movement-capture as where I had just been.  However, like Sydney and its surrounding areas, Melbourne did contain plenty of interesting samples to use for microscopic imaging – further proof that even in a concrete jungle, beautiful and complex natural life is all around us if we look closely enough.  Inner-space travel for the win!

Luckily, despite the same partial lack of vehicle that I had experienced in New South Wales, I was able to tour the countryside of Victoria a bit, getting a lift from friends, in addition to shelling out a few precious dollars to guides.  This state is no less beautiful than its neighbour to the north.  I wish I had more time and money to see more  of it...

By mid February it was time to head down to a large island that has fascinated me for years: Tasmania.  It was once known as Van Dieman’s Land, its label shortly after it was mapped by Europeans, and through its decades-long phase as a notoriously brutal penal colony in the early 1800’s. Before this, it’s believed that it was once known as Lutruwita, which it may have been called for thousands of years by its original inhabitants, whose ancient culture remains as scarcely more than a faint echo emanating from the past.  The history of the island is mysterious, at times terrifying, and heartbreaking, especially the story of its aboriginal population.  I highly recommend reading about it to anyone interested in history or anthropology.  

Tasmania is also astounding in a geographical / ecological sense.  Besides its unique marsupial animals, which are more or less well-known, it has a rich biodiversity of lichens, fungi, and non vascular plants (some of the oldest-known multi-celled land dwellers) or that it houses the largest tract of cool-temperate Gondwanan-type rainforest in the world (an ancient type of environment similar to what dinosaurs once crashed through).  It’s also not as well known that Tasmania makes up the planet's largest exposure of dolerite (a subvolcanic rock forming magnificent cathedral-like columns), and that its citizens breathe what is arguably the freshest air in the world.  The list of unique features goes on.

Although my summer in Tasmania is over, I’ll be returning in April, because I haven’t gotten enough of it!  There are still plenty of areas I feel I need to see, in order to feel satisfied in my hunt for esoteric imagery.  Unfortunately, I recently found out that I’ve been turned down for a grant, which would have supported me in an intensive photographic study of a highly inaccessible major forest in the northwest of the island.  Still, when I go back, I’ll be trying to get as deep into it as I can, as there are thousands of incredible locations and environments I have yet to discover.

 in any case, I’m excited for the opportunity to see more.  For now, the land of New Zealand has been beckoning me.  (I’ve recently arrived on the North Island!)  From what I’ve seen and know, it could easily be my new ‘favourite place in the world’.  Like Tasmania, I’ve been fascinated by its history (both natural and cultural) for many years.  I’ll be here for a month – and this time, I’ve got a vehicle to share.  I’ve regrouped with some excellent and talented explorers, who happen to be close friends of mine... we’re going the road less travelled.

I can't wait to show you what we’ve been finding here. 

New post will be out in April.  Until then – take care, internet hive mind.