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Forest at Coast Range by David Tatnall acquired by the State Library of Victoria Picture Collection

Date: 02/09/19

We are delighted that David Tatnall's fabulous photograph ' Forest at Coast Range' has recently been purchased by the State Library of Victoria Pictures Collection

We're sure you will enjoy David's fascinating account of the making of this of this historically significant image.

In early autumn 1986 I was camped at Frosty Hollow on the Errinundra Plateau in Victoria. The plateau and nearby Coast Range are around 1000 metres above sea level and are often fog and mist bound. But not this week. It was perfect weather for walking, not too hot, a slight cooling breeze. Clear blue sky. Too bright and sunny for making photographs. From my camp I ventured easterly along Coast Range Track to near Curley Creek. The forest here is dominated by Shining Gums Ė Eucalyptus nitens and the Errinundra Shining gum Ė Eucalyptus denticulate.These trees can grow up to 90 metres in height. The annual rainfall here is around 1.4 metres so even in a dry autumn the forest is pleasant and damp.

Sometimes things can happen when you least expect. Standing looking at a multi age stand of trees, I though to myself if the light was not so bright this would make a good photograph. Then the light changed. Being at around 1000 metres above sea level clouds often drift into the plateau. One did. The light remained bright but was now defuse and perfect for making an image. I set up my camera - a wooden folding 4x5 camera. I only carried one lens, a standard lens, giving the same point of viewas the human eye. Using a hand held exposure meter I calculated the camera settings. I was using colour transparency film, which has a very small tolerance, itís either correctly exposed or itís not; in photography terms, half a stop out and itís no good. The cloud was moving, I could see it wasnít going to stay perfect for too long. I made two exposures. The one illustrated here, and another, a vertical image. The light then changed back to bright and sunny. They were the only two images I made that day.

The rest of the day I enjoyed walking through the magnificent tall damp forest. Then back to Frosty Hollow. These forests were under threat of being clear felled logged and a Lands Conservation Council investigation was going on at the time, a process where public land was looked at by experts, the general public, and vested interests to come up with the best use of the land. More often than not commercial interests were placed above any thing else and land use decisions were often a shameful compromise. These old growth forests were far too important to be destroyed for profit by a few.

I had been making photographs of the East Gippsland forests for a number of years. Driving into places and setting up a base camp then venturing out into the track-less forest making photographs. Itís a slow and costly process using a large format camera. I tended to only make photographs when the light was as good as it could be. Walking and carrying the camera meant the bulky film holders Ė two sheets of film per holder Ė were kept to a small number. The day I set out and made this photograph I had six sheets of film. I came back to camp with four unexposed. Colour transparency film was at that time processed at a commercial laboratory. The process called E6 was best done in regulated conditions by technicians. If the exposure was correct the resulting image looked stunning. The movements of the 4x5 camera enable depth of field and perspective control, coupled with the clarity of the lens and brilliance of transparency film, makes these images stand alone in photography.

The photograph went to have a life of its own. It was published in the Wilderness Society calendar in 1987. Made into a poster that sold over 10,000 copies. It became the image that helped save these forests. The Errinundra Plateau and the Coast Range were legislated as national park by the Joan Kirner Australian Labour PartyGovernment on 15 July 1988, two years after the image was made. The surrounding forests were earmarked to be gutted by the loss-making timber industry; the compromise was in their favour. But, Errinundra National Parkhas become a tourism icon, generating money and jobs while preserving the old growth forests.

Technical information.

The photograph was made on a folding 4x5 field camera using the standard 150mm lens. No filters where used. The film was 64 ISO colour transparency film that was processed in standard E6 chemistry.

The chromogenic print is 76 x 100 cm.




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