The most seductive time for my photography in the Tamani Desert was just as the sun dipped below the horizon. The magic hour. Except that the hour was more like 15 -20 minutes:
It was a world of gentle and subtle pastel colours. Even more so than just after dawn. I confess that I had the colour palette of Albert Namatjira in mind when I was photographing at twilight. His water colour landscapes of the desert country around Hermannsburg (Ntaria), particularly the Arrernte lands around the Western MacDonnell Ranges, were delicately coloured. His watercolours of ghost gums, desert flowers and rocky outcrops of the MacDonnell Ranges were often seen as both derivative ( he used an existing white man’s art form) and pretty in a chocolate-box kind of way. They were viewed as ultimately vacuous.
There was less subtlety in the colours in the early morning light just after sunrise:
Prior to sunrise there wasn’t enough light for me to photograph the landscape hand holding the camera. Though I had bought a baby Linhof tripod with me I didn’t use it with the digital camera.
I was using colour as digital data rather than film, I wanted to avoid the saturated colour palette of tourist aesthetic that is currently so popular in contemporary digital photography, where bold colors are often used as a way of supplementing the removal of other design elements. “Pop” is what they are after.
In contrast Namatjira was intrigued by the interaction of light on solid forms and he represented the elusive qualities of light and its engagement with the land. Often Namatjira, just like a landscape photographer returned day after day at the same hour to paint in front of a chosen subject”, often revisiting an image to produce subtle variations.