In a Land of Giants pt. 1



Waldeinsamkeit.

It’s not gibberish, it’s German.

Waldeinsamkeit.
(n) the feeling of being alone in the woods.


It’s one of those beautiful words that the English language would do well to borrow. It’s also what you’d expect when you visit the Bago State Forest, or more specifically, the spectacular Sugar Pine Walk.



Shy of 20 something photographers gathered to venture out to the hidden gem that is Laurel Hill. Four cars, a lot of cameras, and a small town called Tumut - far over the horizon.

To many others, this trip would’ve been seen as a great opportunity to shoot and mingle with some other incredible photographers and creatives. It was.
However for me, there was much more to this trip than just that. It was well needed time away from the drag, and the cycle of Sydney life, and a perfect opportunity to spend quality time away with my better half, Eleanor, and the third wheel (sorry) - my newly returned best mate Rhys.

As our trip began, and Sydney became a speck in the mirror, I could swear the air became clearer, easier to breathe. The sky opened up, with a furthered horizon. A cloud lifted from my head, a weight gone, from my shoulders, and my eyes opened and so importantly - focused. 

I was one of the few first timers to Laurel Hill, the home of the Sugar Pine Walk, so the only expectations I had were what i’d seen on Instagram and from other photographers that had been before.
The main inspiration for this trip was the freak snowstorm that happened a few weeks prior. Snow falling to 800m, and lots of it, meant the Sugar Pine Walk was transformed into a Narnia-esque winter dreamscape. A wonderland. However with the rising temperatures and the rainfall before we headed, the prospect of snow quickly disappeared - along with my dreams of Waldeinsamkeit. 
Camera shutters, directions being thrown around, noise, laughter, chatter. Fantastic things, though things that would crowd that feeling of isolation. Or so I thought.

Honestly, it didn’t bother me much. The business, the hustle and bustle. The creative vibes flowing were high. With such an awesome group, in an incredible place, it was bound to be an incredible time in the forest regardless. Excitement followed - and we were only just leaving the caravan park on route to the forest.

Winding forest roads, fog, the dying light.

Dirt roads, mud, a heavy camera bag.

Two steps into the trees, one look up.

No expectation, no hashtag, no finely combed photograph of a model amongst the trees could have done any justice to seeing those pines with two human eyes.

Ineffable awe, in a land of giants.


The shutter clicks, the noise, the chatter. It all slowly disappeared and blended seamlessly into the trees.

I ventured down the walk itself, to the sides amongst the pines, over stumps and under logs. So many enormous, ancient trees, with only the odd second of someone else walking amongst them.

Further, further the noises became, as the light at the top of the hill came nearer. What would be up there, at the end of the path? I envisaged being atop a ridge, looking over a vast valley of pines and fog. Endless nature, untouched and as ancient as the titans that surround me.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Death. Emptiness.


I regret not taking photos of the emptiness beyond the walk. It was depressing. A field of splinters and stumps, crudely torn apart by the muddy yellow excavators and logging machinery that lay scattered amongst the dead valley. A reminder of the destruction humans can cause. So casually uprooting the trees that would remember many a generation before our own.

A turn of the heel, and the despair was out of sight.
However, long yet till it were to be out of mind.

Fading light, and the final walk back down the path to where we came.

Waldeinsamkeit.
(n) the feeling of being alone in the woods.

I thought about that word again…

The Sugar Pine Walk is a small protected area amongst a large logging area. Perhaps it’s not the us, but rather the ancient pines of that area, that feel most alone in the woods.

New friends, laughter and fun times, a few good flicks.

An epic trip in all - yet only the beginning of ours.

The next morning, whilst the rest of the group headed back to the forest, Rhys, Eleanor and myself ventured on, through the back roads, and onto the Snowy Mountains. That my friends, is where we were truly in a land of giants.

This post is Part 1 of a three part series about a little bit of time spent away with two of the people I hold dearest. Cramped car trips, smelly snowboard boots.
Snow covered valleys, crisp mountain air.
A time, a memory; a story to be told.

Click here for Part 2
Click here for Part 3



To check out the other works from the trip to Laurel Hill, search #Intothemud16 on instagram, or check out these profiles!


Smile

I had the pleasure recently of meeting two of the brightest and most love inspiring souls imaginable at work. The kind of people you don’t just “happen” to meet. An experience in itself I could rant on about for hours, however one of them posed a question to me that’s stuck with me since… The kind of question that spurs you to rethink just what you’re doing with your life.. Where your focus, your energy lies.

“If you could only have one word on your grave, what would it be?”

I’d like to say that those words hit with ballistic impact. As heavy as a blacksmith’s hammer strikes his battered anvil. 


Truth is, I was working, and at the same time half tripping down a step and in turn giving my cardiovascular system a surprise high intensity interval session… However the more I thought, and continue to think about that question, the heavier it grows on me. Not so much the blacksmith’s hammer, but the bellows, that gently fuel that crackling, raging furnace.

One word… One word…

In the end I cheated and picked 4 words, the title of this blog. Slow down, Look up… Fitting for the feel of my workmanship and philosophy to my work, but on my gravestone? Hardly so.

One of the first words that swung through my head was ‘humble’.

Humility is a virtue we should all strive for. Shoot down ego and pride when they rear their ghastly foul heads and overcome them with immense love and compassion.

How noble! How ironic.

‘Always’.

Sorry Snape. Romantic sure… In life we often like to think of things as absolute, infinite. Our lives and moments enduring always… But as an epitaph? Ehhh… The irony! Seems like a cute idea at first, until you picture someone reading it, and the “Ha!” escaping their mouth.

‘Always’ is probably in the same category as Forever or Alive. Comforting sentiments perhaps, but after a while a sore reminder of the finite, fleeting nature of our fragile existence. Perhaps a word along those lines, yet with slightly less depressing connotations would be…

‘Free.’

Rather than denouncing the fact that all things come to end - revile in it. Accept and embrace it. No longer bound to the grievances and pain this world is clouded by, instead freed from them. The thought of freedom makes me picture the thoughts and words of Marcus Aurelius. Looking up at the stars, and seeing yourself running with them. Forever free from the unbearable lightness of being. (Good book by the way!)

Wait a minute though… What made that person’s life so painful and unbearable that their final desire was to be free from it all?

Bah. Back to square one we go.

How about ‘Loved’?

Common sure, but for good reason! Love is EVERYTHING. The Universe is better by it. Giving love, feeling love, the only thing that ever had and ever will matter, is love! Now we’re getting somewhere!

But the tense bugs me. Love-d. Hmm. It shouldn’t bug me but it does. It’s finite, it ends. It screams “once upon a time”.

Loved, but soon forgotten. Dark, depressing and pessimistic thoughts I know… 

Hmm. Too much weight, but I’ll keep it on the short list.

Speaking of weight, how about ‘light’? Light… Not just in weight, but actual life giving Light itself. Images of sunlight comes to mind… Autumn leaves in the gentle breeze. A feather, floating though the air. Death always seems so dark and heavy, so why not leave a mark that instills uplifting brightness in whoever reads it? Rays of enlightening joy. (Haaaaa!)

Connotations of freedom come to mind, minus the irony that comes with the word ‘free’.

What I like most about this word is that it tells people that “Yes, death is dark. It’s sad and depressing. But it’s okay. I’m gone, and that’s okay”. It’s different to the other words because rather than being a reflection on the life that was, it’s a big shove forward. It spurs people to move and not become stagnant, stuck in the cycle of grief.

In fact I think I like that as the purpose of my epitaph… Not a word to commemorate or somehow describe me. You can’t fit someone’s entire life and their impact on this world in a single word. You never will be able to! Rather I’d want a word that continues to work. A word that keeps making ripples.

‘Smile’

Ah. That’s better. Doesn’t that feel nice?

A word that doesn’t exactly focus on me, nor my passing, but rather even IN my passing continuing to effect those that come by me. Telling them to simply just smile! Shit happens, and that’s okay. Things will fade. Possessions will fade. People will fade. Lives will fade. Even memories will fade.

So I’d like to have a word that fights that. A word that triumphs over the dismal melancholy that clouds around death, and instead arms people with the simplest and oldest way of fighting sadness.

A smile.

Go, smile.

In the beautiful words of Terry Pratchett,

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in this world die away…”


Slow Down, Look Up

I added this blog to the site with grand intentions of what it could become. A medium to express my thoughts in words, and at the same time sate my love for writing! Yet the second I sat down to write my first post… Nothing.

It’s been weeks.

I recall something a friend once said about writing; “The most important thing when writing, is to sit down, and write.”

So here we are.

Firstly I thank you for coming this far, and now invite you to follow me deeper. I intend to fill this blog with photographic stories, dreams of wanderlust, profound thoughts, and useless junk. 

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