In the redwoods

“Won’t you keep us from all harm
Wonderful redwood tree” – Van Morrison

It is hard not to imagine a journey through northern California, Oregon, Monterey, the Big Sur coast, and San Francisco without considering the influence of historical and cultural topographies. There are many possible routes: from the pioneers of the Oregon trail, to the paths of Kerouac and the Beats, modernist photographers such as the Westons or Adams, and musicians of the 60’s and 70’s that celebrated these places in their lyrics, influencing our consciousness.

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Early morning after rain

I hadn’t expected however that in Orgeon and northern California there would be such strong legacies and remembrances of the depression programs of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Friends insisted that we should travel to Mt Hood and see the Timberline lodge with its incredible architecture, artworks, and tribute to job creation at a time of such economic need.

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Presence

Driving down the Oregon coast we crossed several bridges which owed their construction to the vision of FDR, and in the redwoods at Prairie Creek his influence in conservation and tree planting programs is still celebrated. The broader community effort to preserve and save the redwood forests of northern California nearly 100 years ago today seems remarkable, yet today when we visit the USA it is the parks, forests and wilderness that attract us, and motivate others to conservation elsewhere in the world.

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Redwoods and sword ferns
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In the light

These quiet forests, with majestic groves deep within are places of incredible beauty and peace. Walking through Stout Grove I placed my hand on a redwood, felt the bark with my palm, and acknowledged my small age next to its. We worry about the things that might make us, or our age and nations great, yet some of these trees have witnessed much of recorded human history, and many have lived since at least the invention of the printing press. Their almost infinite presence gives us hope that we can live through harm, find hope and healing.

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Redwood stand
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Late afternoon

All photos taken with Chamonix 045F1, Rodenstock Apo-Sironar-S 150mm, on Delta 100 and developed in a mix of Xtol(1.3)+RO9(1.160).

Fragments

Pounded by wild seas, cast upon rocks, and pushed high by storms, coves around Bass Point fill with shells. Some are whole, but most are fragments. Pieces are broken, and eroded by successive tides, revealing the patterns and structures of different species living by the sea.

An arabesque swirl catches my eye, as does the disk with a spiral, that differs from circles shining, unbreakable structures inside a barnacle, or wings remaining, and the surprise of a branch with leaves attached dried in the sun.

Every fragment, a memory of a past life or being. Each piece and pattern reminds me of my own existence, and the structures that shape my mind and spirit.

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Arabesque fragment
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Disk
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Inner circle
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Unbreakable
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Wings
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Branch

All photos taken using a Chamonix 045F1, with Rodenstock Ysaron 75mm lens, on Fomapan 100 film, and developed in a mix of Xtol(1.3)+paRodinal(1.160).

Bombo

It has been about a year since I have been to Bombo. On my last visit I rolled my ankle on a rock, breaking a bone in my foot. Lately we have had heavy weather, so in a break between downpours, I headed to the old quarry at Bombo hoping that waves might be breaking over the sea walls.

Waves on columns
Waves on columns

Bombo seemingly was named after Thumbon, a local indigenous leader, at the time of the settlement of the Kiama district. When the railway was first built south from Sydney, it stopped just north of Kiama at Bombo, where the basalt quarries provided blue metal for concrete, building railway lines and roads.

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Old basalt quarry

Bombo headland has geological formations of hexagonal basalt columns of international significance, abutting sandstone formations, which have reversed magnetic polarities from a time when the North and South Magnetic Poles were reversed. Rocks of Permian age throughout the world show a reversed polarity and this unique formation is used for “intercontinental paleomagnetic correlation of Late Palaeozoic rock sequences.”

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Quarry pools

Quarrying began at Bombo headland in the 1880s. Basalt was carried to Sydney by dozens of small vessels known as the Stone Fleet until the railway line was built. The Irish miners employed to quarry the basalt, left rock columns and walls adjacent to the ocean protecting the works from the onslaught of the sea.

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Pool and pillars

Today part of the old quarry is used for a sewerage plant, but that is largely concealed from the coastal walk that wends its way around the headland from Kiama via Bombo to the surf break known locally as The Boneyard, and then on to Jones Beach and Minnamurra.

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Watchtower

On most days the headland is deserted, with the exception of seabirds watching for fish from the columns, just above the waves which pound along the walls.

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Hexed

Here and there a few broken columns reveal their hexagonal structure. Where waves crash through gaps, it seems as though the fortress wall has been breached.

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Window

The break in the wall opens a window to the ocean, clouds and the swirling tides.

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Foaming sea

On occasions the surging sea rushes over these formations, and once I got struck by water falling over the other side. Although the headland resembles a ruined fortress, or rock amphitheater for waves with seabirds as an audience, local children seemingly also call it Toothbrush Island.

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Toothbrush Island

Wave action shots were taken using Kodak TMax 400, except for the last one in series, which was made using Fomopan 100 along with the rest, using Toyo-View 45CF field camera with Nikkor-SW 90mm f/8 lens, and Tiffen Y12 filter. The film sheets were developed in a mix of Xtol (1:2) and Adonal (1:200).