One of the beautiful things about Melbourne is the surrounds it finds itself set in. Probably what makes it one of the world’s most livable cities. Perched on a sweeping bay, with sandy beaches just five minutes’ drive from the skyscrapers of the city centre. With some of the world’s most dramatic coastline- the Great Ocean Road, for example- an hour to the south-west, while to the north lie ranges of small mountains and, closer to home, vineyards set in gentle countryside.
Directly north of the city, closer still, you find hilly farmland, where suburbs melt into the bush and become picturesque roadside towns engulfed in seas of grey-green gum-trees, where galas and cockatoos flit among the branches by day, and where kangaroos can be seen sipping from household ponds as the sun goes down. Just half an hour’s drive from sprawling shopping malls like Westfields in Doncaster, the rural idyll couldn’t be more removed in atmosphere and setting.
I came up this way looking for something to photograph, just a few days back. The winter afternoon was clear and the air was cool but refreshing. I accidentally left my Melway (road map) at home- something I should do more often- as it meant that within fifteen minutes I was on roads I didn’t know. That I found my way out of the maze that is the Northern Suburbs is in itself a miracle.
I’d love to tell you where I ended up, but truth be told I don’t actually know. After getting onto one smallish country road, I turned down a gravel access road, and then down another, and quickly found myself wending my way down a narrow dirt trail lined by white eucalypts, while the late afternoon sun turned golden and flickered between tree-trunks, low above ridgelines quickly turning to silhouettes. Mailboxes dotted every couple of miles along the pathway were hints to farmsteads set on rises out of sight of the road. Green council recycling bins reminded me that although the bush felt isolated and in the middle of nowhere, I was still in easy access of the municipality.
After driving for a while and trying (unsuccessfully) to catch a shot of shafts of sunlight filtering through the dust in my wake, I came to the top of a hill and found this old wreck. It was lying at the corner of a hilltop paddock just by the fence, nicely accessible, and I couldn’t resist lining up some shots. Nearby was an old weatherboard shack also worthy of some photographs, but sadly the light wasn’t cooperating, so I focused on the vintage farm truck instead.
The light in fact did let me down- and these shots are courtesy of some graduated neutral density filters applied in post-processing which have allowed me to expose the darkened foreground without blowing out the sky (though a couple have used fill-flash as well). The gentle evening light was lovely to look at and gave the countryside beyond a soothing feel. The red colour of the rusting chassis set against green fields and landscape however is so striking, and I am determined to go back and find it again, when the light is fully on the vehicle and not lost behind the trees, hopefully reducing the need for as much work in post. But for my first photoshoot out, I was quite pleased with the result, and was given a beautiful sunset to boot. While I stood at another gate lining up the final shots of the day, a herd of grey kangaroos loped past to graze fifty yards away- they’re terribly tame, even in Melbourne’s environs. I couldn’t obviously take any photos of them, lacking both the light and the telephoto lens, but it was a lovely moment to enjoy.
If I learned anything from my little excursion, it was a reminder of how much fun it was to get lost. I must remember to leave my map at home more often…