Photo Essay: In The Arms Of Middle Brother

Robert Maddox-Harle (aka Rob Harle)

Robert Maddox-Harle

The photographs that follow below were taken by me in February 2016. I decided to use a film camera with black and white Ilford 100 ISO negative film.  Black and white images have a special feel which colour cannot imitate. At high tide the river and lake have a pristine beauty enhanced by the stillness and reflections from the glass-like water surface. At low tide the very same location has a desolate, almost Wasteland beauty which is made all the more powerful by the old structures which were created to grow oysters. I wanted to capture these qualities and decided black and white was the best medium to portray this magical, haunting beauty.

The peace and serenity in this location at dawn, and just as the sun brings in a new day is quite moving and unforgettable. Whilst waiting for just the right “light moment” I realised how much we have lost, or at least compromised, in our uncritical acceptance of the latest technology and techno-gadgets. For example, the “point and shoot” digital camera encourages, in all but the extremely aware individual; poor composition, disregard for lighting, out-of-focus images and superficial thinking! With a  film camera one cannot point and shoot, check the image is adequate, delete if no good and then shoot another one. Film encourages mindfulness and non-wasteful practices.

The shots are taken at Googleys Lagoon and Pilot beach which are attributes of the Camden Haven river system, this is located on the mid-north coast of New South Wales in Australia.

This even now pristine river system is unpolluted enough to grow healthy, beautiful oysters. It is fed by the ocean at the eastern end and from rainfall from the hilly, mountain regions to the west. These mountains are called; “The Three Brothers” North Brother, Middle Brother and South Brother. By world standards, they are big hills not mountains. However, Middle Brother is the main watershed for the Camden Haven river catchment.

The Dreamtime story told by the local indigenous Australian Aboriginal people, the Birpai, is that three brothers were killed by the witch Widjirriejuggi and the mountains stand where they were buried.

The Camden Haven is a largely unspoilt natural area with forests, waterways and kilometres of deserted beaches, as would be expected the area is flanked by a number of important National Parks.

I have given the photos fairly extensive titles to help convey the experience I had on this particular visit to this area where my father lives.

By the way the oysters I ate for dinner from the river were delicious!

Fig.1 Googleys lagoon, high tide looking East. The ocean is just over the small hill, the sun is about to rise. I experienced a feeling of total peace and wonder looking into the mirror water.

Fig.2 Googleys Lagoon, very low tide showing the man-made structures for supporting the oyster growing platforms. They now use floats for the platforms. A desolate and eerie experience at day break.

Fig.3 Googleys Lagoon, access jetty looking North across the exposed mud-flats at very low tide. Notice the seat at the end of the jetty for quiet contemplation.

Fig.4 Googleys Lagoon looking West at about half low tide. Channel markers, jetty and oyster platforms contrasts dramatically with the still, glassy water.

Fig.5 Googleys Lagoon, half outgoing tide. Notice mountain in the distance and the tree isolated in the middle. Astonishing that a tree would grow there!

Fig. 6 Pilot Beach. These rocks are part of the break-wall which has provided a safe “bar” allowing easy access from the Pacific Ocean to the Camden Haven river in most weather conditions.

Fig. 7 Pilot Beach, the rocks again part of the break-wall. This little beach is perfect for safe swimming

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