The Photograph Explained: Trentham Falls by Ian Raabe

Trentham Falls

Silver gelatin Photograph

At a weekend workshop I had photographed some old sheds and machinery on a nearby potato farm and was able to get several good images. The next morning, rising early, I made for Trentham Falls. They are located 1½ km north of Trentham (Vic) and easily accessible. The day was overcast with a little wind. This early in the day the falls are still in shadow, but I was prepared to wait for the sun to provide more light. The Coliban River has cut an impressive deep valley over time and the falls flow over vertical basalt columns, which overlay older river sediments. There is a path that skirts the falls and river on the east side. There are several viewpoints as well as a path that goes to an undercut cave at the back.

Most photographs seem to be taken from one of these viewpoints but this seemed a bit cliché. I wondered what the falls would look like from the opposite side. Scrambling down over fallen branches I made my way to the base, crossed over wet rocks and struggled up the other side. There were large patches of blackberry and stinging nettle but after 20 minutes I was up and looking across to the falls. I found a vantage point that gave me a clear and almost unobstructed view. Looking down I realized that the tripod would need to be placed on the very edge of the cliff face. Carefully attaching a 135 mm lens to my Wista Field 4 x 5, and composing to include the whole falls, I noticed a small tree branch coming into frame in the lower left. I could not move so it became part of the image. Suddenly the light intensified and some of the cloud thinned to reveal small blue patches, now the rocks revealed their structure and the falls almost sparkled. I did not want the water to look like cotton wool or frozen, so exposed for ¼ of a second at f 32. The light lasted only another minute before it clouded over.

Days later, after developing the negative and looking at a contact proof print, the result was pleasing. The columns stood out in relief, the water appeared to be flowing, and it was possible to see through the falling water to the cliff behind. As well, the problematic tree branch now seemed close enough to touch and its shape led the eye across a great space to the falls, with water cascading far below.

Technical details :

Camera, Wista Field, 4 x 5, Lens 135 mm, f 32 @ ¼ sec, no filter.
Film, Tri X 320 rated at 160 ASA, developed in AB Pyro.
Printed on Fomabrom 111, Silver gelatin print, selenium toned.

Ian Raabe with 4x5 camera

Ian Raabe