The Photograph Explained: Hyden Rock by Alex Bond
Silver gelatin photograph
I visited Hyden, a small country town about 350 km inland east of Perth. Hyden is famously known for its nearby tourist attraction Wave Rock, a granite formation 15 metres high, 100 metres long, weathered over thousands of years into the shape of an enormous breaking wave. It was made famous around 1964 when a photograph of it won the Kodak International Colour Picture Competition at the New York International Fair. To all intents it looks like a long walled monster of a swell, barreling and sucking onto a shallow reef break. Kitsch images of surfboards being “ridden” on the rock have appeared in publications over the years.
Wave Rock is not really the name of the rock but part of a formation of Hyden Rock, named after a sandalwood cutter who camped near the area around 1920. The rock is one of a series that are spread throughout the region and there is a strong Nyoongar history present amongst them, with Aboriginal motifs including hand prints found in nearby Mulka’s Cave.
The obvious photographic subject would be Wave Rock formation, with its streaked rock face and all its immensity, however, I was interested in other less photographed aspects of the rock. Areas of Hyden Rock reveal a fractured layer of granite, virtually exfoliating like dead skin from the larger body below. Searching the area a zig zag of fracture lines caught my attention. The early morning sun had just risen over the rock summit, lighting its flanks and the camera position I desired for the composition was looking straight into it. If I returned to the scene later in the afternoon, it would have resulted in my shadow falling within the image. Wanting to retain some of the drama of looking into the morning sun, I decided to make the photograph, placed my tripod into position and unfolded my Wista 4×5 wooden field camera. To retain the strong affect of the diagonal lines in the composition required a wider than normal view, so a Rodenstock Grandagon 90mm lens was used.
Raising the lens board allowed me to point the camera downwards at a more acute angle, avoiding some of the direct sunlight hitting the front element and using the double dark slide as a lens shade help minimise lens flare, although not totally eliminating it. In this instance I wanted to maximise the depth of focus along the length of the rock which slanted upwards in front of the camera at approximately 45 degrees. To achieve this some back tilt was utilized to alter the plane of focus and to accentuate the strong perspective of the fracture lines. Such movements afforded by a field camera are invaluable tools that allow greater image control than on conventional cameras.
This negative was exposed on 4 x 5 Tri X Pan film. I like to determine my personal film exposure index and normal development time for film on grade 2 or “normal” photographic paper using traditional darkroom processes as a guide. This ensures that my negatives will print well on silver papers and will optimise my scan quality should I choose a digital pathway for printing or publication. This image was given about one stop more exposure to reveal more shadow details and received less than normal, N-1, development to help preserve important highlight detail in the final print.
My personal preference for making black and white prints is to print them on fibre based paper using traditional darkroom techniques. I use a split grade printing approach with variable contrast papers as it affords me great flexibility during printing. A 16 x 20 print was made on Fomabrom Variant 111, which was selenium toned and archivally processed, then dry mounted onto museum board. What I enjoy about the darkroom process is that it requires the physical application of all my craftsmanship and skills to be included into the print making process and therefore leaves my own unique qualities within each and every print. However, regardless of technique, a successful photograph must speak for itself.