A late start... A very very late start! Facilitated by the late night commitment to go and take some photographs in a canyon the night before. I can easily blame Jamie. "Len, I think you need a couple of black and white photographs in your gallery." So I had one packet of Kodak T400CN in 4 x 5, and loaded up ten shots into the five dark slides. And proceeded to add some black and white images to my colour collection of The Greater Blue Mountains Wilderness, and to my collection of canyon photographs I had been working so diligently on.
But I can't blame Jamie for being up with me late, playing pool and drinking. That was equally my fault. And was the usual past time at our house at Mount Piddington. So this Friday night was no different to many others.
I wish I could say we were up at the crack of dawn, but we weren't. I don't think we managed to get out of the house before 2 pm. I packed the Linhof Technica III with a Nikkor W 150mm f5.6 lens into a small pelican case, the tripod went into a extra long dry bag. All of which was thrown into my pack with my wetsuit, and other little luxuries like a thermos, a hand towel and my antacid. Desperately needed to help me recover from the excessive drinking.
We walked down the exit track into the canyon, passing many as they walked up the hill in the late afternoon. There was a crowd at the beach, while we blew up our lilos (air beds). Strange looks as we departed upstream. "Where are they going at this time?"
A few kilometres up stream. Some wading, some walking some paddling bought us to the tributary canyon. The walls are so tight that you can't walk through with your pack on. Particularly with a pack with a Pelican case in it. When we reached 'the green room', Jamie left me for a while, and he headed up stream further to explore. While I toweled my hands dry and started to get my camera out and set up on the tripod.
This was the first photograph I took that late afternoon. It was the single exposure onto black and white film. I scrambled around to try and get a few more shots, and manged to compose two more, which I took on transparency film. My companion was soon back, reminding me that it was time to leave this beautiful spot. So we headed off. The canyon was quiet now. Being so late in the afternoon, all the smart canyoners had left. We had the place to ourselves.
Drifting downstream on your lilo, on your back, leaning against your pack, gently paddling downstream is magical. You look up and all you can see is stunning photograph after stunning photograph. Each to snapped in my internal photo album that exists only in my head, only for me to see and look through.
Back at the sand beach where we had walked in, we could change, back into some clothes, and drier shoes. We donned our wet packs, still dripping with the cold canyon water and headed back up the hill.
It was very late by now, and we had miss-judged our daylight. As we topped the steep cliffy rise, past the small climbs we lost daylight. Neither of us had bought a torch. We walked slowly, just able to see the break in the ferns that marks the footpad. Between the king ferns a light started glowing. A full moon was just rising, and the darkness soon lifted. We were able to easily walk back to the 4WD and head home to relax with another beer, a hot shower and yet another game of pool.
This photograph didn't come up too well in the proof that I had ordered when it was developed. But there was enough there to show me that it had potential. A drum scan soon changed that, and this image jumped to life. I used it as the marketing image when I opened the "Leonard Metcalf Gallery" in Katoomba. I had it on posters and a post card. People would show up to the gallery with the post card in their hand (they needed the map that was on the back to find me). I would ask them why they came, and they always replied and pointed to this image.
On that original postcard I had named the location of this shot. The local outdoor guiding companies had a 600% increase in requests to go this particular canyon. So now I don't tell the location, and prefer just to tell you it is in The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, in a canyon somewhere.