Capturing hidden ecosystems – Rob Annesley

With our regular Dragon’s Lair Gallery programming suspended due to COVID-19, Rob Annesley’s exhibition has been postponed until later in the year.

In the meantime, we talked to him about his technique and approach to his photography.

Rob Annesley’s The Wild: Webbs Dam will provide a stunning glimpse into the beautifully complex ecosystem at Webbs Dam in Evatt Park. Rob is a Lugarno local and began taking daily walks at Webbs Dam and the rainforest towards Salt Pan Creek two years ago in an attempt to help his misbehaving (but loveable) dog expend some energy. Being a professional photographer, it wasn’t long before Rob brought with him a couple of cameras to document the landscape. In his upcoming exhibition and book of the same name, The Wild: Webbs Dam, Rob brings together the insight and familiarity of a place that comes from being a daily visitor with the skills and vision of a professional photographer. The result is a captivating collection of images that reveal this hidden ecosystem in a surprising and moving way.

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Rob Annesley at Webbs Dam. Image courtesy of Rob Annesley.

Can you give us an insight into your artistic process? Is your work pre-planned or created intuitively? How long does each work take to complete?

My nature photography involves the selection of a location followed by one or more reconnoitre visits to identify species, habitat, resting and nesting positions, access to wildlife, walking clearances, angles of light and any safety issues that need to be considered. On each visit I’ll determine whether the conditions and the wildlife’s demeanour better suit portrait, locale or in-flight photography. For example, sometimes the light is able to be managed so that the animal is fully lit yet the backgrounds are dark, giving rise to a more portraiture style imagery.

When photographing nature, time isn’t relevant. It just takes as long as it takes. You attempt to visualize a shot; that is, planning the foreground, mid ground and background that you would like in the image, and then you wait for the subject to enter the frame. Often it never happens, but that’s not a problem. Because you have so much time patiently waiting, you see other opportunities and then the unexpected happens and that ends up being the shot you make. It’s really quite serendipitous.

Can you explain your technique?

With wildlife it’s really a matter of spending time with the subject species. Getting to know their habitat and how they behave. Are they ground or tree feeders, blossom or nut eaters. Roots or grubs? Do they nest high or low, scrub or tree branch. Are they small and quick, or large and more placid. Most wildlife are habitual, and if you insinuate yourself into their environment and establish a no-threat regularity you will be able to literally gain their trust to a degree, allowing some very close encounters with a camera and lens.

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Photograph by Rob Annesley.

Do you keep some kind of ongoing drawing book or diary? Or a collection of images or photographs for inspiration?

I have a collection of the images I have created of Webb’s Dam over the past three years and have assembled them into a book entitled ‘The Wild: Webb’s Dam’. This book is the visual diary of my experiences with the endemic and transient wildlife that live and visit the wetlands. It never ceases to amaze me what animals find their way to this vital suburban ecosystem. As small as it is, it sustains and vast array of very important species.

Who are your favourite artists? Who do you draw inspiration from?

A wide range of photographers have influenced my work, but more importantly they have inspired me to get out and create my own images. Ken Duncan (landscape), Leila Jefferies (birds), and Aaron Baggenstos (wildlife) are photographers who have had a bearing on my work. I use lighting creatively to add an extra dimension to my images, and lighting master Joe McNally has been very influential in my work. As to inspiration, I have to say that all the guys and girls that I have met and photographed side-by-side with out in the wild, have all added to my inspiration. It’s that collective experience and just chatting; watching what someone else does or how they go about their photography often gives you some little takeaway that moulds your skills into your own personal style. I’m a big believer in education and over the past eight years I’ve attended the Australian Centre for Photography, an institution full of professional, practicing photographers from all styles of photography. It’s been incredible the practical knowledge I’ve gained from my time there and I still attend workshops and courses regularly.

Learn more about Rob:







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