ON TRACK

The two-hour trip in­cludes a half-hour stop at Et­mi­lyn sid­ing to al­low for a short me­an­der­ing loop walk around rocky pools and along for­est tracks.

Camera - - PHOTOGENIC PLACES - PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY IAN ROBERT­SON

Ian Robert­son heads to Dwellingup, south of Perth, to sam­ple the many pho­to­graphic de­lights of the Hotham Val­ley Rail­way’s unique For­est Train.

Life is a jour­ney, not a des­ti­na­tion,” said Ralph Waldo Emer­son, and this is cer­tainly true in Dwellingup, a small town in the south-west of West­ern Aus­tralia. Pre­vi­ously a tim­ber mill town, Dwellingup is si­t­u­ated a com­fort­able hour-and-a-half drive south of Perth within the Dar­ling Ranges. Gazetted as a town in 1910, it’s named af­ter the abo­rig­i­nal word for a “place nearby wa­ter”. Still heav­ily forested from re­growth and si­t­u­ated along­side a wa­ter­way, you can see why Dwellingup was orig­i­nally cho­sen for milling tim­ber. The wa­ter sup­ply was used to sup­port the steam train which trans­ported the tim­ber in the early days.

Ad­ja­cent to the town cen­tre is the vis­i­tor’s cen­tre and rail­way sta­tion. This is the start to this jour­ney as it’s now home to the Hotham Val­ley Rail­way’s col­lec­tion of vin­tage steam and diesel lo­co­mo­tive trains which de­part from the town to wind their way through ver­dant for­est and val­leys. The click-clack of the train wheels on the track re­sounds against the still­ness of its sur­rounds, cre­at­ing a rest­ful, rhyth­mi­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.

We picked an ideal day... start­ing out with stormy, rain-bear­ing clouds which did in­deed de­liver on their prom­ise. This is ideal, you ask? Yes, be­cause af­ter rains, the for­est aroma per­me­ates and coats the veg­e­ta­tion in a more sat­u­rated green.

This helps the pho­tog­ra­phy as­pect which, of course, is re­ally why we are here. Sunny days cre­ate un­wanted high­lights on leaves and trunks which can be sub­dued by use of a po­lar­is­ing fil­ter, but an over­cast day is the ideal choice.

If you take your fam­ily – which in­cludes grand­chil­dren in my case – then you have a ready source of ‘peo­ple shots’ to add an­other di­men­sion to the im­ages you may cap­ture. In­clud­ing peo­ple can

help tell a story, pro­vide scale to ob­jects, merely add hu­man in­ter­est to the scene, or pro­vide a sense of space.

COLOUR CON­TRASTS

As we were to be in the mid­dle of a for­est, I de­cided to pack my Nikon D-SLR on which I’ve had the sen­sor con­verted to in­frared B&W cap­ture. Put sim­ply, this makes green fo­liage ap­pear as white and dark­ens blues. I was sure there would be some great con­trast­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties with the trees and the rail stock. A soft ‘fairy­tale’ ap­pear­ance can be cre­ated given the right bal­ance of fo­liage and sub­ject. As al­ways, though, com­po­si­tion is paramount. Use fore­ground in­ter­est or sug­gested lead­ing lines to give the sense of depth to your im­ages.

There is no short­age of close-up de­tail pho­tog­ra­phy among the rail para­pher­na­lia. There were ideal colour con­trasts with the red-and­green lo­co­mo­tives and yel­low-and-blue fea­tures in the car­riages. Even a close-up of the brass num­bers on the lo­co­mo­tive can be an ef­fec­tive im­age to cap­ture. Be­fore em­bark­ing or when the train stops at the half­way point are good times to take these shots as you, with safety in mind, wan­der around the train. The 30-kilo­me­tre jour­ney passes pre­vi­ous mill set­tle­ments now de­funct

since the be­gin­ning of the late 1800s when tim­bers such as jar­rah, marri and black­butt were first milled. Only sig­nage re­mains, mark­ing the lo­ca­tion of these tim­ber towns as they were not re­built af­ter a mas­sive for­est fire in 1961 razed all, in­clud­ing Dwellingup. How­ever, Dwellingup was the only town cho­sen to be re­built.

The two-hour trip in­cludes a half-hour stop at Et­mi­lyn sid­ing to al­low for a short me­an­der­ing loop walk around rocky pools and along for­est tracks. It is a rel­a­tively easy walk, skirt­ing rocky pools and pass­ing along wooded tracks. There are var­i­ous clear­ings which af­ford pleas­ant com­po­si­tions with for­est back­drops. Look for pat­terns or bal­ance in the tree trunks as a base for these im­ages. If macro pho­tog­ra­phy is of spe­cial in­ter­est, then take your tri­pod too as there are a num­ber of flow­ers on show… with most be­ing of the minia­ture va­ri­ety.

AF­TER THE RAIN

As al­ways, though, com­po­si­tion is paramount. Use fore­ground in­ter­est or sug­gested lead­ing lines to give the sense of depth to your im­ages.

As men­tioned ear­lier, visit­ing this area af­ter rain makes for a won­drous as­sault on the senses. Then, in spring­time, the wild­flow­ers be­gin to bloom. Sum­mer is more lim­ited pho­to­graph­i­cally mainly be­cause it can get very hot and the rail­way jour­neys are lim­ited to diesel runs only as there is too much risk of bush­fires start­ing from the em­bers pro­duced by the steam lo­co­mo­tives.

Use the full com­bi­na­tion of all the types of shots de­scribed above to tell the story of this ab­sorb­ing pho­to­graphic ad­ven­ture to who­ever may view your im­ages. Your pic­tures should tell the story of what it was like to be here... was it cold, wet, tran­quil... with­out necessarily need­ing a nar­ra­tive. That’s pho­tog­ra­phy at work.

How­ever, if you do wish to re­count the day’s ac­tiv­i­ties af­ter the trip, then around the corner is The Wine Tree win­ery and cidery. A log fire and the re­lax­ing sounds of Ir­ish mu­si­cians jam­ming greeted us on our af­ter­noon visit.

Make this area a spe­cific des­ti­na­tion or use it as part of West­ern Aus­tralia’s world-class 1000-kilo­me­tre Bib­bul­man Walk Track. If you are one of the two-wheel brigade, then Dwellingup may also at­tract you as it is part of the new Munda Biddi moun­tain bike trail.

Ei­ther way, Dwellingup and the Hotham Val­ley sur­rounds are a great place to dwell while in­dulging in your pho­to­graphic pas­sions.

The train wait­ing at the Et­mi­lyn sid­ing, cap­tured in in­frared.

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