If you search ‘landscape photography’ in your favourite search engine, the image results are universally magnificent: soaring peaks kissed by warm early morning sun, deep valleys of cool, still water with mist lapping over the edges.
But… what if you don’t live in the Dolomites?
Australia has mountains, obviously, but they’re old. In fact Australia has rocks so old they predate the earliest known life forms.
And this age means that they’re worn out. Rather than the jagged peaks of the dolomites, they’re a bit…cut off at the knees.
One of my early Australiana learnings was hiking with a group of friends in NSW. We were heading for a ridge off the back of the Kosciusko range. I commented on my concern that we’d gotten turned around as there was no ridge for miles in any direction that I could see. Apparently we were already on the ‘ridge’, which was about as wide and flat as a football pitch.
And that’s just at the edges of this great southern land. When you venture inland most of Australia used to be the bottom of an ocean. It’s very flat, and very empty. The Great Australian Loneliness.
So what’s a photographer to do when there are no features to photograph?
Well, featurelessness becomes the feature. You can add a subject to juxtapose the emptiness, or you can just lean on the beauty of the big empty.
In my UK days I had a weakness for bleakness, always preferring to spend time in the Dales rather than the Lakes. In Rannoch Moor rather than the Nevis range.
The Great Australian Loneliness is a wonderful place to be. A place so quiet that all you can hear is the blood pumping around your ears. There’s not a breath of wind and all you can feel is the radiating heat that makes your eyeballs ache. One misstep and you’ll be jerky before anyone ever found you.
I love this country. Montana’s got nothing on our big sky.