Bringing Harmony To Your Photos

A study in composition featuring rocks on Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island, Australia

Cape Woolamai is a beautiful location for landscape photography on Phillip Island in south east Australia. It's around a 30 minute walk, either overland or by following the beach from the car park at Woolamai Beach. Following the beach can be problematic as, if you’re not careful, you could be caught by the incoming tide. Going inland is arguably safer but, during warmer months, you need to keep an eye out for snakes.

The Cape itself can be quite wild with ferocious winds and crashing waves. It’s important to come prepared as its easy to be caught out by changeable weather.

I first visited Cape Woolamai in, I think, 1989. My old friend Stuart Murdoch and I were undertaking undergraduate studies in photography under Les Walkling at Phillip Institute of Technology (PIT). Stu was a great friend, one of the best blokes I've ever known.

I remember being shocked by the dead mutton birds we found at the top of the cliffs from where the path leads down to the first of several small, rocky beaches just behind the cape. It appeared that the mutton birds, that nest in the area, had fallen prey to dogs or foxes.

We stayed to photograph the sunset and then got ourselves into trouble as we headed back, inland, towards the car park. Though there was no chance of getting lost we must have strayed off the path as we found ourselves constantly falling, thigh deep, through the ground. As well as being extremely fatiguing it was also scary, bringing back memories of haunted graveyards. The fact that we were likely falling into nests dug out by mutton birds did not make us feel any better.

Thankfully we found our way back onto the path before too much damage had been done. The positive outcome was that, from that day onwards, I made sure I had a much brighter headlamp in my camera backpack.

The above photo was made on a subsequent trip to Cape Woolamai with a Leica R8 film camera. Of the more than 20 cameras I've owned over the years its probably the one I've enjoyed using the most. While quite a big camera it was extreme well engineered, ergonomically designed and simple to use.

It was a tricky photo to make as I struggled to keep my balance, while stretching to straddle rocks just out of frame.

The key to this image is it’s harmonious composition. The photo contains rocks that, over millennia, have been smoothed by water, wind and sand. Their circular shape is helpful, but really it's the way these rocks have settled on the landscape and have then be framed, in camera, to produce this study in balance. And it was balancing on those rocks that enabled me to produce such a harmonious result.

Nature is inherently chaotic and it's often difficult to find a well balanced scene. The trick is to approach your photography with an open mind and be aware of what's going on around you, in the here and now, rather than arriving with a particular image in mind. And, as well as looking outwards, towards infinity, don't forget to keep an eye out for the beauty that exists just below your own feet. Sometimes infinity is closer to home than we might think.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru