An award-winning landscape photographer based in Dunsborough, Christian Fletcher has spent 27 years perfecting the art of light, composition and colour to produce striking images that pay homage to the diverse beauty of Western Australia.
From selling his images at local market stalls to establishing the Christian Fletcher Gallery in the early 2000s, Christian’s work has attracted widespread recognition and he has been twice awarded Western Australian Professional Landscape Photographer of the Year (2011 & 2014) by the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers.
Christian believes all great landscape images need to have the ‘perfect light’ at their core, and has travelled to the vast corners of WA to capture it. We asked him to share some of his favourite shots.
Karijini National Park, Pilbara
Western Australia is made up of numerous regions and being a third of the total land area of Australia it is incredibly diverse. One of these regions is the Pilbara, and I would have to say after the South West it is my favourite. It is what you could call the ‘real outback’. Sparsely populated, it is a region that can make you feel isolated and “away from it all”.
Karijini National Park is possibly the most beautiful national park in the state if not the country. I have been there eleven times and each trip has been remarkable. From the deep gorges with stunning swimming holes to the Hamersley Ranges’ rugged beauty, it is a photographers’ dream location. This image was taken a short while after fires had burnt the landscape clean of vegetation. The new growth of spinifex dotted between the red rocks and soil, the classic Australian gum tree and the incoming storm made a stunning landscape.
Faure Island, Shark Bay
Back in 2013, my brother mentioned an idea to create a collection of aerial images from Shark Bay. This was to coincide with the 2016 celebrations of the first recorded landing of a European in Western Australia; Dirk Hartog first stepped onto what is now Dirk Hartog island in 1616.
For a week myself, my brother and photographers, Tony Hewitt, Peter Eastway and Les Walkling spent time flying over the bay photographing the amazing abstract patterns and colours of this remarkable region. On this particular flight, this scene of Faure Island caught my attention. The striking colours and movement of the tides created a visually interesting image. The collection of photographs was eventually purchased by the shire of Denham and is on a rotating display at the tourist bureau.
Dardanup Waste Processing Facility
This is possibly the best aerial photograph I have taken. Some might say, “but this is a picture of a waste processing facility, how is that a showcase of Western Australia”? Western Australia is a pretty flat state, and for that reason some of the most visually appealing aspects are viewed from the air.
I look at my photographs as artworks to enhance your home or workspace. Whether the scene is natural or man-made, the importance for me is the end result. This image looks like a vision of outer space, a distant nebula of gas and dust. The flock of birds bring you closer to earth, create scale and make you wonder, “what is that”?
The Basin, Rottnest Island
I don’t think there are many West Australians that haven’t been to Rottnest Island. It is a favourite holiday destination for most and for me has a family connection. My great grandfather was the lighthouse keeper for a period of time. I have heard interesting stories about Quokkas being on the menu at some stage!
This photograph reminds me of a painting by acclaimed artist Larry Mitchell. I was traversing the island with my friend photographing each bay from the water. The conditions were perfect for photography, the beautiful inky water making the shot.
Marlgu Billabong, Kimberley
Several years ago I travelled to the Kimberley region with a bunch of photography mates. The aim was to experience the build-up to the wet season. We travelled in December and based ourselves in Kununurra. I remember flying in through billowing white thunder clouds with the rain falling and rainbows forming, convinced this was the only time to be up north.
Fast forward 30 minutes and we stepped off the plane into a thick wall of heat and humidity. It might not have been a good time to be up there, but the sky was full of drama and as photographers that is all we could ask for. One of our afternoon journeys took us to this amazing billabong just south of Wyndham. I was struck by the beauty of the lily pond, looking like a Monet painting, and knew I was on to something.
The Hunter River, Kimberley
I have been privileged to have gone on several trips on the adventure cruise ship the True North. Most of these have been on the Kimberley coast. This region is one of the last wilderness areas on earth and the only way to visit is by boat or helicopter, which makes it so much more unique.
The Hunter River is one of the overnight moorings and sunrises there are often spectacular. I took this photograph from the back of the boat. There was not a breath of wind, no sounds other than birdlife; even the guests were still in bed. It would have been so nice to swim a few laps in the tranquil waters, but unfortunately swimming isn’t recommended, as I soon realised when a large crocodile swam silently past the boat. It was a moment I won’t forget in a hurry.
The Stirling Range
It was the eve of my wife’s 40th birthday and I had planned a special night camped on the top of Bluff Knoll at the Stirling Range. She was so happy to be camping out – she is that kind of girl (plus, I didn’t tell her she had to carry all the heavy stuff!). The most precious cargo (the wine) had to get to the top in one piece. We started our climb in the late afternoon through passing rain squalls and strong winds. The conditions for photography were epic and I made some great images all the way up.
Nearing sunset I noticed this scene looking back into the light and told my wife we needed to make a portrait of her to remember this special moment. Prompting her to move ever closer to the edge, I did have some concerns that I might have to carry all the gear back down by myself. I told her to be careful and took this image. This photograph captures the spirit of Jen; brave, strong and determined. She is an amazing person who is capable of anything she puts her mind to, and has taught me so much about the environment, justice and equality for all.
Smiths Beach, Yallingup
I have been photographing aerial images since 2010. The first time I shot properly from the open window or door of a light aircraft I was hooked. I took this image of Smiths Beach from the window of a Cessna 210. It is a great platform for photography, as it has no wing struts and retractable undercarriage so you have nothing obstructing your view. I was flying with pilot Roger Avery (yes that is his real surname!), who loves flying so much he was a pilot before even getting his driver’s license.
On this particular morning, it was sunny with light winds. We took off from Busselton airport with the intention of flying down the coast and seeing what images were possible. We do lots of orbits when shooting aerials; the pilot will bank the plane and turn very tightly over the subject so we can shoot straight down and get a more abstracted view. We had been doing this for about 30 minutes as we headed over to the west coast. I was feeling a little ordinary after going around in circles so much and once we got to Yallingup there was a reasonable sea breeze coming in.
We seemed to be stuck between an easterly breeze on the bay side and a westerly on the cape side. The air was very turbulent and we were bouncing all over the show. I was feeling very ordinary. I said to Roger, “mate, how long will it take to get back to the airport, because I am going to paint the inside of the plane and you ain’t going to like the colour”. He got the message and 15 minutes later we were back on the ground. Unfortunately motion sickness doesn’t just go away when you land – it hangs around for hours. It was my least memorable flight but I got the shot and it has been one of our best sellers in the gallery.
Crops, The Wheatbelt
I love the wheatbelt of Western Australia; it is such an under rated region. It makes up a huge area of land, and there are lots of reason to go and explore. Like most of WA it is pretty flat so it is an area best viewed from above. It is good to visit at different times of the year as it changes so much.
The farmland, the banal small towns and the sparse landscape in the right light can be beautiful. I love to go with my drone and photograph the crops and amazing salt lakes that are everywhere. Every now and then you get something remarkable. You just have to be there with your eyes and mind open. There is beauty all around.
Tailings Dam, Kwinana
Western Australia is a huge mining state. We love digging stuff up, from coal and iron ore to bauxite and gold. What I love about the industry around these mines is how it creates stunning abstracts around their operations. I am sure from the ground they are nothing special but how look at how amazing is it to see from the air! I took my first serious mining aerials up in the Pilbara but soon realised there was so much on offer close to home.
This image of a bauxite operation in Kwinana was so spectacular in its shapes and colours. The textural pattern and design make it look like a painting; this is what I love about industrial aerials. When printed large and framed it is hard to imagine how something that is effectively mining waste could be repurposed into a work of art.
Christian’s gallery is set to re-open next week, but if you can’t make it down due to travel restrictions, you can still explore his work here: https://christianfletcher.com.au/