The Pilbara, Western Australia, 2010, Alpa TC, Phase One IQ180 back, Rodenstock Digaron 23mm lens, stitch
1/125 second @ f8, ISO 35, tripod-mounted, no filter.
10 February 2010. There’s an amazing thunderstorm in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, en route to Marble Bar, Australia’s hottest town. I’m on assignment with Christian Fletcher, Michael Fletcher, Tony Hewitt and Les Walkling, producing an exhibition for FORM to promote culture in Australia’s North West. FORM is an independent, non-profit cultural organisation that develops and advocates creativity and artistic practice in Western Australia.
This was the beginning of our Ninety Degrees Five collective.
It was a very hot day. On the road it was definitely 50°C+ due to the heat radiated by the black bitumen, but possibly the official temperature was closer to 45°C or 46°C. Either way, it was hot and in the mid afternoon, I was quite comfortably cocooned in our 4WD with the air conditioning unit running full blast.
As we drove towards the Marble Bar turn-off, we watched a wet season thunderstorm grow and develop. The road seemed to be skirting around the edge of the weather cell and in the distance we could see some willy-willies forming – small tornados of red dust climbing into the black sky above. It was a photographic feast we could not resist.
We found a side road that led to a slightly raised vantage point above the Pilbara plain. Thunder rolled ominously as we walked around the flanks of a small hill in the stifling heat, but heat was the furthest thing from our minds as we watched Nature unfurl a remarkable display of fury. Lightning ripped through the cloud mass, starting spot fires on the grassy plain, and the willy-willies merged into a minor dust storm, picking up red earth in its path. It felt like we were on the edge of a huge amphitheatre.
They say that travelling in the North West during the wet season isn’t necessarily a good idea because of the heat and the wet, but after this experience, that little gem of advice has been relegated to the dustbin. There are many locations in the world that are better shot ‘out of season’. While the probability of perfect conditions might not be as high, when you get it right, it is wonderful!
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