From the fast-paced fashion world of New York to the endless horizons of the West Australian outback, photographer Caleb ‘Salty’ Davenport has gone from one extreme to the other.
After spending a year assisting some of the world’s most famous photographers in New York, Salty realised the fashion world was not for him, longing instead for the silence and star-filled skies of the outback.
Upon his return to Perth in 2013, he purchased a 4WD and began documenting adventures with his friends, reaching the most remote areas of WA with his dog Morrie riding shotgun.
Salty’s love affair with the Aussie outback has led him to capture some of the most untouched and unseen areas of WA, many which can only be reached via 4WD.
“The afternoon light in the Pilbara is special,” Salty says. “The land seems to go to sleep as the sun dips below the horizon, frozen in the desert chill of another still night.”
Encouraging people to step off the beaten track, his adventures are professionally documented and shared as movie-length episodes on YouTube.
Salty’s expeditions have taken him across the state to some stunning locations, including Red Bluff at Quobba Station, 126km north of Carnarvon.
“Every year for the past 15 years, I’ve been lucky enough to spend several weeks at Quobba enjoying life in the desert, soaking up beautiful waves amongst great people. Shot on a night of a full moon, this shot captures an illuminated Bluff, still and majestic.”
Another natural feature that commonly appears in Salty’s catalogue, WA is home to thousands of salt lakes. Shot from above, their surrealistic patterns create a marbling effect.
“They all brandish their own unique patterns and colours reflecting harsh weather patterns of the past. Occasionally, you might find ‘ocean like’ patterns on salt lakes resembling waves.”
Although he usually travels alone with just Morrie by his side, Salty says he recently managed to convince his brother (laying down exhausted in the shot below) to join him on a several-day traverse of one of the larger salt lakes in WA.
“During the days it was hot, windy, muddy and we were covered in flies. As the sun went down it was like we were transported to another planet. It became still, silent and incredibly tranquil.”
Salty says that when a friend manages to get a couple of days off work, he is sure to take them to some of his favourite spots to enjoy the desert sunset with a drink in hand.
When asked how shooting landscapes compared to shooting high-fashion, Salty says that he loves capturing the best of both.
“I find both have their insecurities; both can be shy and at other times, extroverted. This is always the issue with solo travel, there is a lot of moments that would be best shared and having the ability to capture someone in these landscapes would be perfect.”
“Landscapes lay it out for you, it doesn’t move, although to find the best angle can be a challenge and involve lugging your gear up steep, loose rock hills. Finally, you make it up there but now the light has changed and then you need to move quick to work out the best way to capture this new moody landscape.”
Photographing people, on the other hand, involves building up a relationship of trust, as people tend to put up barriers, self-conscious around cameras.
“If you’re able to break down those barriers, and keep them entertained, you’ll be able to capture their inner and outer beauty. Lose their trust and you may only capture the superficial beauty and what little escapes their heavily barricaded inner self.”
Salty often spends days and weeks at a time travelling the outback on his own, and says that travelling solo can be unnerving at times.
“I’ve camped in places before where you could really feel the energy of the location was unsettled; the wind would ruffle your feathers.”
“Those are the nights you wish the sun would hurry up. I’ve only ever had this a few times. 99.9% of the time it’s amazing, and you really feel like you could be the only person on the Earth.”
To anyone considering hitting the road alone, he advises not to overlook the basics such as water, reliable communication, first aid, and of course, letting someone know where you are going.
When he’s not out in the wilderness, Salty is photographing for corporate clients Bankwest, HBF, RAC amongst many more back in Perth.
He has several projects on the go currently, including a documentary featuring a variety of West Australians captured in short, cinematic videos. He juggles this alongside editing his images and video footage.
“It really is hard to take a bad photo up North,” Salty says.
“But it takes some work to take an excellent one. After trips I still get home and look through my photos questioning myself about how I could have captured that moment better. I’m my worst critic, but at least I’m honest.”