Inside this issue
End frame: Black Lightning by Peter Jarver
Matt Smith chooses one of his favourite images
With many interests that involve photography, if not working alongside his wife on their classic car, you’ll often find Matt immersed in one of Australia’s wilder landscapes.
My formative years were spent in a small coastal town of Eastern Australia. We were fortunate to live in a house that backed onto the bush; an Australian term for a reserve of natural woodland or vegetation. Most of my then free time was spent hopping over the back fence and exploring this wonderland of natural phenomena. All the seasons had their specific personality, but summers were often hot and humid, to the extent, that the bush developed what I called a tiredness; the air so stifling that everything seemed to wilt by the time the afternoon came along. Relief came in the form of thunderstorms, with billowing, dark grey clouds rising from the west, absorbing the heat and swallowing the sun.
I remember these times well. I’d hop the fence and find my favourite place and watch. I never failed to be awestruck by the sound of rumbling thunder, with sheets of lightning peeling across the sky; the wind ripping, gyrating the upper canopy of spindly branched eucalyptus. And then the rain, so thick all before you turned into misty shapes of grey. And yet, all over in half an hour, only for the sun to make a brief appearance, the foliage glistening with drops of gold, before setting over the horizon with the most spectacular cloud shapes resplendent in a rainbow of colours. I’d never felt so alive.
Such experiences developed into an interest in natural landscapes, and how weather affects not only the aesthetics but also the atmosphere or the mood of the landscape. Something that was to be all the more fascinating, when I eventually picked up a camera, especially so if a storm was brewing.
During late October to December, in North Western Australia, the time is known as the ‘build up’, where the first tentacles of the tropical Monsoon descend upon the top end of Australia. Hard baked earth, sends ever upward, thermals of superheated, humid air, reaching to the heavens to condense into some of the largest supercell thunderstorms on the planet. The lightning show alone, if ever you’re fortunate enough to be there and witness one, will leave you speechless.
I first came across Peter Jarver in a book called The Top End of Down Under, that I found in a second-hand bookshop in Sydney. I’d recently married, and at the time, with our weekend pursuits into the Wilds of Australia, my photographic interests saw a row of bookshelves devoted to Peter Dombrovskis, Chris Bell, David Muench and Galen Rowell to name a few. Peter Jarver was an unknown quantity, to me at least, but one, like those names that sat proudly on that bookshelf, was to change my photography for life.