Kings Canyon is part of the Watarrka National Park, home to the Luritja Aboriginal people, in the Northern Territory, Australia. Part of the gorge is a sacred Aboriginal site and you are discouraged from leaving the walking tracks.
The easiest and best way to get there is by car via the sealed Lasseter Highway. It’s about 6 hours or 450 km south-west of Alice Springs, otherwise its 4 hours or 300 kilometres north-east of Uluru. The best time to visit Kings Canyon is at sunrise. This is good strategy to avoid environmental heat buildup as the sun climbs higher in the sky. It’s also to avoid any access closure at around 11 a.m. by rangers, in the interests of safety, due to the heat.
The six kilometre, four hour, Kings Canyon loop rim walk is a challenge, particularly at the beginning. A reasonable level of fitness is expected to do the rim walk. The canyon walls are about 270 metres high, from the get start. You’ll ascend 500 very steep steps up to the top the canyon wall to start the spectacular rim walk. At about half way, you descend and cross the canyon floor. Once down in the canyon you can choose to trek into the Garden of Eden, a permanent waterhole. It’s a worthwhile visit, prior to backtracking to ascend the other side of the canyon wall to complete the second half, back to the car park.
You’ll also need to carry water, 1 litre per hour, per person, to drink during the walk –this is important. Along with well maintained rest room facilities, there is a water station, near the car park. There’s also the Kings Canyon Creek walk, 1 hour duration, for after completing the rim walk. Be advised, if you take a camera, it’ll be, all up, more than a four hour walk.
I went there, not only to savour the experience, but also to do my best to visually capture and project my connect with that experience, in an image or series of images – dependant on what I reacted to, at the time. These images were taken on the loop rim walk, the creek walk, and nearby landscape walk, close to where my wife and I were staying. I took many images, whilst being mindful of avoiding a cliched tourist ‘snap’. I wanted to record the ‘vibe’, the bit that made stop because it resonated with me, to reveal that bit ‘for what it is’. Not an easy task I set myself, but one that both set boundaries and produced rewards. I think I achieved what I had set out to do, because I trusted my instincts when I reacted to what I was seeing at a particular time, and then let my photography look after itself.
However, something did not sit right with the final images. The camera 2:3 frame ratio both impacted and influenced in its own way, as did lens choice – ranging from 25mm to 50mm. The Australian outback landscape is vast. To a point where a 50mm lens can function like a wide angle lens, at times. The landscape is so vast, that it’s easy to miss the small bits that go into making the complete picture. If not receptive, one may just superficially scan what’s there, without actually reading what’s present. A single image, or a series of images, can capture and express an experience by revealing the individual moods that exit within the midst of what’s observed – if you are prepared and willing to listen.
My approach is to firstly slow down and observe – then the small bits, in the observed, will start aconversation, and I reciprocate by listening with my eyes. That’s when I’ll start to see, as opposed to only look. Then, the resulting images I’ve crafted, will both articulate and project that connect, of ‘On Being There’. The resulting images are not necessarily big in a physical size, nor in immediate view, but will reveal both deeply in their connect and vision.
In addition, some images were not crafted to be sharp throughout the entire field, but relied on the opposite –there was the use of blur, secondary to using an aperture value tending towards the wide open end of the scale. This allowed me to use selective focus on the bit that resonated –the bit that projected that ‘vibe’ I reacted to, whilst listening with my eyes.
Whilst undertaking this exercise, a couple of times people stopped and asked me what I was photographing. I explained to them that these smaller parts, that caught my attention, spoke with their own voice, and they were an important part of the whole vast vista in front of them. One person remarked that they had not noticed this until I had pointed that out to them – thus the character, focus and connect attributed to my images, in this series. This is also why a black and white approach was used for the images in this series –it gets to the bones of the image, without the impediment of colour. A greyscale reveals shading, light, forms, volumes, tones that would otherwise be obscured behind a colour palate –even if, in some instance, the Australian ‘Red Centre’is near monochromatic in its palate. By contrast, a greyscale delivers on both what I see and want to project, in a final image.
A reframing to the 9:16 ratio also helped me better reveal what I had set out to do, to project that connect of the ‘vibe’ that I had reacted to and recorded, because the Australian outback is vast, and this, to me, did not lend itself to a2:3 ratio viewing. So, I chose the more cinematic 9:16 ratio, to help deliver that connect with the ‘vibe’ recorded in each of these images. So, enough words have now been written, I feel. Now it’s time for you enjoy each image, and experience the ‘on being there’.
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