Tag Archives: hawk dreaming

Lost and Found

I am back in Copenhagen after a long 30 hours of flights from Sydney to Denmark. I hardly know how get back to normal life and write normal blog posts again; this time my soul never made it back with me and will forever live somewhere in the outback. I would want to go back tomorrow if possible.

I have a lot of work to sink my teeth into fortunately. Have transferred all RAW files from Lightroom 2.1 on my laptop to my main workstation and have developed exactly 1 RAW file! A sentimental can-stare-at-this-forever-brings-back-memories Hawk Dreaming at dusk silhouette shot:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Hawk Dreaming Sand Palms at Dusk
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Normal service will be resumed shortly on this blog when I find my lost marbles!

Reflections on an Outback Overreaction

Climbing up a rock face in darkness to witness dawn and sunrise over Hawk Dreaming from a rock shelter rich in aboriginal art. Watching the sun drop into the Indian Ocean standing on Cable Beach. Exploring the Kimberley bush at dawn completely alone. Just me and the light. Driving on the Gibb River Road in the late golden hours of the afternoon. Sitting in Big Bill Neidjie’s cave. Connecting to the landscape and aboriginal history like never before.

Just a few magical moments from this trip. My head is threatening to explode with feelings, memories and experiences and most of all thousands of images. It is overwhelming. This photo trip has provided some of the best moments in Australia for me ever and fantastic new friends, business connections and ideas. Also some of the most frustrating moments ever with trucks breaking down, trips getting cancelled, missing the Mitchell Plateau, 3 sleepless days of jetlag driving me crazy, hurting my knee at Emma Gorge. Some incredible ups and downs.

The entire purpose of this trip was photography of course and it is too early for me to say whether it was a success. The Kimberley light is difficult; I will write about this in a future post. I have several thousand raw files to go through and a lot of stitched panoramas. Only when I emerge from the digital darkroom can I judge the results of the trip. But we had extraordinary light some days and I know there is some art in the data I’m bringing back.

I am ending with a shot that probably means little to most people. To me it is home; it is what I’m all about. The remoteness. The sense of space. The heat. The red dirt, blue sky and white gum trees. The desolate plains.
The mysterious and fascinating Australian outback.

Outback. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

A good photo shows that you have connected with your subject; be it landscape, people or animals. I may take it slightly to the extreme bordering on obsession as I have what could be described as an overreaction to the Australian landscape. I hope it shows in my work.

As I leave Australia and my life down under today; I feel very sad in many ways. I shall return to my home the outback as soon as possible.

In the footsteps of Bill Neidjie and the Bunitj Clan

Imagine sitting in a shelter, a large natural rock cave 30 meters above ground. Look out over the floodplains and you have a timeless uninterrupted panoramic view. No roads, no power lines, no people. Look down and on the rock you sit on are grind holes from thousands of years of grinding paint and food. Turn around and study the rock walls close up. Aboriginal art in several styles from up to 40 to 60 thousand years old grace the walls. No signs, no fences, no people. No sounds. Just you and the power of Hawk Dreaming; country of the Bunitj clan in Kakadu National Park.

Then the sun rises. The world awakens. Sounds of the wildlife of Hawk Dreaming fills your ears. I feel almost embarrassed to mix in the loud shutter sound from my camera. Sounds like a gun in this natural soundscape. There is nothing to distract you; nothing to remind you that the year is 2008. It might as well be 10,000 years ago and you really expect a family from the Bunitj clan to be there as you sit in their home and their shelter and watch the sun rise.

080920-IMG_7913

I have blogged about Big Bill Neidjie and Hawk Dreaming before and first visited this magical place in 2007. I wanted to return this year and further explore and photograph this area as I cannot image a more special and powerful sacred place in all of Australia. Nowhere else will you find a place with amazing floodplain landscapes and one of the highest concentrations of aboriginal art sites in Australia. Certainly no place with access to as there are probably more places like this in Arnhem Land but they are totally off-limits. Hawk Dreaming has it all.

I hired a private charter for 3 days (from now on this is the only way I’ll go on tours!) from the only company allowed to bring people into Hawk Dreaming – the super good Aussie Adventures. Les Thorne – known as “the white aboriginal” to his friends for his deep love and knowledge of aboriginal culture and history – was my brilliant guide and teacher. My aim was to shoot landscapes at Hawk Dreaming and see and learn as much as I could about the aboriginal art and history. I am extremely fascinated by and feel connected to aboriginal culture though I only know just a tiny bit about the incredible 60,000 years of history.

The 3 days were absolute magic and spectacular. With my own guide, teacher, mate and 4WD I got all the landscapes I wanted with 2 sunrises and 2 sunsets at Hawk Dreaming. I got to see the roughly 15-20 art sites that we were allowed to go to and Les kindly shared his deep knowledge. A personal highlight for me was sitting in Bill Neidjie’s cave where he lived from 1975 when the land was finally given back to the Bunitj people – Bill played a huge part in this – almost up to his death in 2002. In Bill’s cave you will see rock art and that is 10,20,30 thousands years old – and rock art that is perhaps 20 years old! Bill’s children and grandchildren would paint rock art and paint things they learned in school in the Oenpelli community such as the British alphabet and an image of Sydney Harbour Bridge! A strong and powerful place; an experience burned in my memory forever.

Adding to the magic; I was actually sort of on assignment. Every commercial photo from Hawk Dreaming has to be approved by Jonathon Neidjie, Bill’s son and the current custodian of Hawk Dreaming. Of course no art shots can be sold; not that I would ever do that anyway – that is not my art to sell! Les got me in touch with Dwane Baker, manager from the Djabulukgu Association, at the Bowali Visitor Center in Kakadu. Dwane had Jonathon on the phone and I showed a few of my shots from Hawk Dreaming last year (fortunate I had these in my bag). Dwane seemed to really like them and quickly asked if I would supply them with copies of the landscape files I shot and also help shoot and document the art sites? If so I could shoot and sell all the landscapes I wanted. They really wanted some landscape shots from Hawk Dreaming and also the art documented and I was more than happy to agree; I get my landscapes and I help Dwane, Jonathan Neidjie and Hawk Dreaming. Making a small contribution that way is an honour. Thanks to Dwane and Jonathon for all the help and setting up an agreement so smoothly and quickly in 15 minutes, something that I know from Les can usually take a long time. Very much appreciated, I know I was very very lucky and fortunate. Must be my amazing photography skills and country boy charm 😀

So I was on a mission and shot photos from dawn till dusk. Landscapes and art sites, rock climbed with tripod etc. to get pristine shots of the art sites for Dwane and Jonathan. I had a fantastic time; absolutely loved it! I have enough photos (the two featured here are quick and dirty previews) and stories from Hawk Dreaming to last a year so stay tuned on this blog.

I’ll end with my ongoing relationship with mosquitoes. Me and Mossies. We go way back. I donated quite a few liters of blood to the mossie community in the Kimberleys and continued my contribution in Hawk Dreaming to the fantazillion of mossies that call the East Alligator river (brilliant name you white folks; there are no alligators in Australia!) at Hawk Dreaming home. Standing by the river at dawn ready for sunrise and a wall, an armada of mossies attack me and Les. I empty a full can of toxic and highly flammable but effective Bushman mossie repellant on my body and clothes. Had I still been smoking and lit a ciggy I would have exploded, I was that saturated in chemicals. The repellant helps some. Little bit cheeky them mossies though. Climb under my shirt and get fresh blood! Les escapes to the Landcruiser leaving my blood as the only food source. So as you watch this sunrise shot from Sunday morning; know that I payed for it in blood!

Hawk Dreaming Sunrise 21-sep-08

Hawk Dreaming. home of the Bunitj clan.
I will return.
Feels little bit like your country is now a part of me!

 

Bill Neidjie

Rock stays, Earth stays.
I die and put my bones in cave or earth.
Soon my bones become earth, all the same.
My spirit has gone back to my country, my mother.
This story is important.
It won’t change, it is law.
It is like this earth, it won’t move.
Ground and rock, he can’t move.
Cave, he never move.
No-one can shift that cave, because it dream.
It story.
It law.
This law, this country,this people,
no matter what people,
red, yellow, black or white,
the blood is the same.
Lingo little bit different,
but no matter.

Country, you in other place.
But the same feeling.
Blood, bone, all the same.
This story,
this is true story.
My people
all dead.
We only got few left.
That’s all, not many.
We getting too old.
Young people.
I don’t know if they can hang onto this story.
But, now you know this story,
and you’ll be coming to earth.
You’ll be part of earth when you die.
You responsible now.
You got to go with us.
To earth.
Might be you can hang on.
Hang on to this story.
To this earth.
You got children,
grandson.
Might be your grandson will get this story,
keep going,
hang on like I done.

– Bill Neidjie

Darwin and MyLife 2.0

Darwin, Centennial Park, Park trees against the light “G’day mate and welcome home!” says the Aussie stewardess to me with a big smile. All I said was “hello” with that “hallooww” Aussie twist to it. I should have been an actor. But thanks! Good to be home. I live at least 3 different simultaneous lives and it means I am usually home somewhere in the world. Good thing I do multi-tasking.

It is very good to be “home” again. I have spent almost a full year of my life in Australia so it qualifies as life no. 2 I should say. I touched down in Darwin 4am Friday morning; looked at my watch and counted 30 hours since I left my other life. Has to be hard to be worth it.

Darwin is a bit of a love or hate it affair but like Cairns – the more I’m here the more I love it. A cosmopolitan multi-cultural energetic tropical town with emphasis on town. It still is very much an outback town with some weird and crazy territorians even if there are now big flashy hotels and lots of new construction as Darwin is undergoing a rapid expansion. Weird and crazy. I fit in completely. I forget how much I love the tropics. It’s life reduced to a pair of thongs; shorts and t-shirts and 4wd trucks. It’s about 33-34 degrees tropical melting heat during the day and probably 25 degrees at night. It’s even hotter here than last year, the build to the buildup to the wet season must have started early as we do have some clouds and higher humidity. The heat, the sunrays are pure energy for a cold-blooded reptile like myself who depend on the sun to heat us and energize us. Why do we even attempt to live elsewhere but the tropics?

Darwin, Harbour cloudscape Darwin is I reckon the most multi-cultural city in Australia and you meet some raw but very friendly and charming characters. Darwin was completely erased twice, first by 350 Japanese bombs in World War II then by Cyclone Tracy. Erased from existence but rebuilt and I think this pioneering self-reliant strong spirit carries on in Darwin. As nice as the tropics and Darwin is; it helps of course that Darwin is the gateway to nature at it’s very best as there is not that much to do or photograph in Darwin itself. Kakadu National Park is to the East; Kimberleys to the South-West and my exploring starts Wednesdays!

There’s only a 7½ hour time difference at the moment from MyLife 1.0 to 2.0 but add 30 hours of getting here and land at 4am and it adds up to serious jetlag. This time it’s been at it’s paranoid best and especially bad, causing 2 sleepless nights so far. Seems to get worse with age; like stuff getting stuck in your teeth. I calculate I am still about 10 hours behind on sleep since Wednesday. It has to be hard to be worth it. Sleepless nights are hard. Paranoid twilight-zone experiences like The Machinist with Christian Bale. The things that get written in my notebook during paranoid sleepless nights read awfully strange in the morning. Fortunately I’ve learned a lesson from the last 2 trips and have nothing booked for the first days here; need some days to normalise.

Darwin, Centennial Park, Palms at Dusk So I’ve basically been tired all day for two days and just relaxed under palm trees in Centennial Park. Yes my friends I admit it’s not all work (I try and convince friends that photography is work). Work starts Wednesday! Which is why the only thing I’ve photographed so far is sunsets in the park; as seen in my 3 fairly ordinary photos to the right of extraordinary tropical colours.

I want to get up and run to Kakadu (all 300 kilometers) to get some landscapes but all good things to those who wait. Need energy back first; then we create art!

I know you’re itching to get the last part of the metal detector saga but nothing happened in Singapore. Not a single beep. Disappointing. Means that alien abduction implants can easily be smuggled through Singapore airport!

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen PhotographyHawk Dreaming brochure PS. Visiting the brilliant Tourism Top End information center it was cool to find the Aussie Adventure Hawk Dreaming brochure – with my photo (see left) the front cover (see right). I knew it was used in the brochure but still cool to see it live. I think it’s the best brochure in the territory; I’m not even biased! Making my mark in the territory one brochure at a time!

A subtle discovered moment of Hawk Dreaming

I received a lot of feedback on my Hawk Dreaming post and I’m grateful you liked the story and my writing. I do like writing although I’m a terribly ordinary writer (actually that’s an insult to ordinary writers) but hey, words are cheap on a free blog! Click my Travelog link if you’re bored out of your mind and can’t think of anything better to read!

As a follow up to my Hawk Dreaming story from a few weeks ago, here’s a photo file that I recently dug out of the archives and processed. It is the very last rays of sunlight at Hawk Dreaming lighting up parts of Cannon Rock and I used my Wacom tablet and painting with light in photoshop to subtly enhance the light. I made the rocks glow a little bit extra and I darkened the grass slightly. I particularly like the long narrow cloud above the rocks, a perfect painterly composition.

If you ever wanted to know what a perfectly tranquil sunset at Hawk Dreaming in Kakadu National park feels like then this is better than a thousand of my words:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Hawk Dreaming Glowing Rock at Sunset Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Imagine sitting here at the end of a very warm day in tropical Kakadu National Park. It’s just you and Nature. No civilisation visible anywhere (ehm, apart from all your camera gear and the 4WD). Time does not exist. The sun sets very quickly and the light changes from hard, glaring and bald to soft, warm and subtle. The wind settles down in time with the sun and there is suddenly not a single sound in the world and Time seems frozen for a brief moment as the sun sets. A new world awakens as the sun disappears and the sound of nocturnal creatures come alive. The last remaining evidence of daylight in the sky are captured on camera until total darkness signals the end of today’s awe-inspiring show by Nature. You realise you haven’t said a word for 30 minutes and can’t recall breathing. You wish this would last forever. This is why I shoot landscapes.

Well, I told you the photo is better than my words. Oh and one of the nocturnal creatures coming alive – mosquitoes! So do remember some strong repellant like Bushman or you will be eaten alive and become a permanent part of Nature!

Fresh eyes on old photos

One of the disadvantages of going through unprocessed RAW files is that it’s possible to miss some excellent but not so obvious shots. Just like in the traditional darkroom days you have to visualize the end result (Ansel Adams talked a lot about this) because an unprocessed RAW file can look rather dull. So sometimes I end up picking the obvious shots and miss the subtle but better shots like the one above. That is one reason why I never delete a single RAW file from my travel photography. They’re a bit harder to re-shoot than say a photo from my home city of Copenhagen.

Like good music it’s the albums which are less obvious that’s usually the classics in the long run. Obvious becomes tiring quickly because it’s … obvious. So I love going through old RAW files because with fresh eyes I’m sure to spot some yet to be discovered subtle gems!

Hawk Dreaming and Big Bill Neidjie

I have been preparing this story for some time. It’s a story of great importance to me. It’s a story of great meaning to me. It’s the story of one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited and the story of an amazing person. Maybe that’s why it has taken me forever to write this. I’m not much of a writer anyway so I have been staring at the blank screen many times without ever typing a single word on this story. I never seemed to get started, couldn’t find the perfect words and afraid to use my own ordinary words for this extraordinary story.

Well I suppose I will never pen the perfect words nor shoot the perfect picture. All I have are my words; my pictures. So here goes. The story of the Hawk Dreaming area in Kakadu National Park and of indigenous Australian Big Bill Neidjie, Gagudju Man.

Hawk Dreaming in Kakadu National Park

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Hawk Dreaming Wetland at Sunset Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Hawk Dreaming is a small closed off  area inside Kakadu National Park in Australia and no other landscape and place has had the impact Hawk Dreaming has had on me. This sacred place is truly magical for me and I was lucky enough to get to experience it on my own tour – just me and the great Andy from Aussie Adventures. That really allowed me to take it all in without the distractions of other people – just the way I like it, just me and the landscape.

Hawk Dreaming map Hawk Dreaming is a closed off area and there’s only one way to visit – on tour with Aussie Adventures, the only company allowed to go into Hawk Dreaming. I’ve already written about how I got my very own tour of Hawk Dreaming in August 2007, click here to read it. Perhaps you have visited Ubirr Rock in Kakadu National Park? If you stand on top of Ubirr Rock and look North you are looking at Hawk Dreaming! Click the map on the right to see large size, click here for Google maps link.

My Hawk Dreaming

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Hawk Dreaming & East Alligator River
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I spend 3 days in this magical sacred land and I tried to savour every single second and take it all in – and shoot heaps of photos at the same time. What makes Hawk Dreaming so special is that it’s just you and the timeless landscape. It’s the complete opposite of Ubirr Rock. Ubirr is very impressive landscape and great aboriginal art, but it’s loaded with tourists, there are paved roads, the art is fenced off meaning you can’t get close etc. All of this is of course necessary to preserve and protect the art and the land but it does take away from the experience with all those people, signs, paths, roads, fences etc. I am constantly reminded of reality and can’t really connect to the landscape the way I would like. It is ‘touched’ landscape.

Hawk Dreaming is almost completely untouched. When you drive around Hawk Dreaming, when you visit the caves and see the art everything is pristine and untouched. No people, no paved roads, no signs, no fences. You are right there and there’s no filter between you and 60,000 years of history! It’s a humbling and spectacular experience. Hawk Dreaming truly is the crown jewel of Kakadu National Park. The following panorama is a wide view over Hawk Dreaming, the East Alligator river and Cannon rock. Ok, there is a small path made by the Aussie Adventure 4wds but besides that everything is completely timeless, untouched and authentic landscape. For me it’s like travelling back in time to thousands of years ago. The smoke in the air is from bush fires but even that is authentic. No bloody powerlines or paved roads ruining my view here:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

View from Cave in Hawk Dreaming Panorama
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

As you can see Hawk Dreaming is also one of the places in Kakadu where you get more open savannah country (naturally there are a lot of trees in Kakadu) and this allows for longer open views of the landscape and the sunset as well. This particular Hawk Dreaming sunset is actually looking due South straight at Ubirr Rock:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Pandanus Palm & Termite Mounds
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

No other place, no other landscape has ever had that great an impact on me. Yes I love Uluru and Kata Tjuta in the Red Centre very much but there are too many people and taken as a whole experience I would say that Hawk Dreaming has had the most impact on me on my 6 trips (so far) to Australia . This is partly because Hawk Dreaming is just magical and carries at least 25,000 years of history and partly because I had the whole place to myself so I could really take in the place and forget about the outside world. Like I told Michael and Alicia at the bush camp, all I needed was an internet connection and I could easily live and work there for the entire dry season!

Aboriginal art in Hawk Dreaming

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The cave I showed you the view from is just one of the many caves in Hawk Dreaming with  aboriginal rock art. As I mentioned before, Hawk Dreaming is very special in that you get to climb the rocks to get to the caves and then study the art right up close and personal. The shot on the right is from the same cave as the panorama view above, the cave wall and art is a few meters behind me. The shot clearly shows you no fences, no signs, no people so you can really study the art up close and discover how very impressive it actually is.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The X-ray art (like the big Barramundi fish where you can see the bones etc) is very detailed and have beautiful drawn fine lines (and on rock mind you, not smooth paper). At Hawk Dreaming I had time – and the whole place to myself! – so I could really take it in and let the place and the art sink in. It does truly boggle the mind to sit there and think that people have lived here for at least 25,000 years. The pigments in the paintings have been dated by scientist to be at least 18,000 years old. It saddens me deeply to think how fast Europeans with no understanding of these people wiped out 65,000 years of indigenous history of living of the land and protecting the land. The first humans arrived in Australia as long as 65,000 years ago and aboriginals have lived in Kakadu for at least 25,000 years. That’s 250 centuries. Took less than 1 century for that to be completely changed after Captain Cook and his so-called ‘discovery’ of a country where humans had already lived for tens of thousands of years. Europeans arriving in Australia was inevitable but at least we could have acknowledged the indigenous people of Australia and tried to co-exist instead of declaring it Terra Nullis – uninhabited, which translated to “up for grabs!”. Which brings me to a very important part of the Hawk Dreaming story, a very important person.

Big Bill Neidjie, Gagudju Man

Big Bill is a legend and unique among the Aboriginal people for many reasons – and he grew up in Hawk Dreaming! Here’s Big Bill, as photographed by Australian photographer Mark Lang, click to see large.

Bill Neidjie

Big Bill Neidjie at Hawk Dreaming
Copyright Mark Lang

A big thank you to Australian Photographer Mark Lang for sending me this striking photo of Big Bill and letting me use it on this blog. Please check out Mark’s beautiful photography – some of it from Hawk Dreaming – at www.marklangscapes.com. Mark has spent 3 years with Big Bill at Hawk Dreaming and is currently working on a book. Mark’s gorgeous shots from Kakadu and Hawk Dreaming are also featured in the Gagudju Man book about Big Bill, more about that later.

Bill Neidjie was one of the driving forces behind creating the Kakadu National Park in order to protect and manage his land for years to come making sure that indigenous Australians govern the national park. Big Bill has been awarded the Order of Australia for his services to conservation. Bill himself returned to live in Hawk Dreaming area in 1979 and is buried at Hawk Dreaming – and one of the caves in Hawk Dreaming has a drawing of Bill’s hand as a child. Jonathan Nadji, Bill’s son now lives in Hawk Dreaming and carries on Bill’s work of protecting the sacred land. Big Bill is also a legend for arranging and attending his own wake! You can read a bit more here on wikipedia and there’s a great article about him here including the wake story – but you should really let Bill tell it himself by buying his book!

Gagudju Man book cover Big Bill felt that something should be written down about the way aborigine used to live, the history should be documented for generations to come so the book Kakadu Man was born. It was re-issued last year as “Gagudju Man” and you can find it on bookshops in Australia or order it online here. It is incredibly fascinating to read Bill’s stories about growing up in Kakadu, aboriginal law, how the white man changed their life and the book also features gorgeous photos from Mark Lang – see the cover photo on the right. It is a fantastic book and must buy if you have the slightest interest in this or have visited Kakadu National Park!

Photographing Hawk Dreaming

I shot hundreds of shots during my short stay at Hawk Dreaming trying to take it all especially in the very short golden hour of the tropical Northern Territory. The sun light is unbelievably bright during the day and you only have a very short time of soft warm light and then it’s pitch black – so work fast! I feel I got some good shots at Hawk Dreaming but I could spend months here shooting, I definitely only scratched the surface during my 3 days there and hope to return and shoot some more.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Cannon Rock at Sunset
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Hawk Dreaming Savannah landscape
Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

More shots from Hawk Dreaming in my Kakadu Gallery.

Epilogue

If you made it this far despite my feeble writing skills then I’m very impressed! Hopefully I was able to tell you this story and convey how special Hawk Dreaming is without boring you to tears or you falling asleep on the keyboard. There really is so much more to tell but this post is long enough already and I’m not a good enough writer to truly express how I feel about Hawk Dreaming anyway. I’ll end by saying that if you are in the Northern Territory then you really should go to Hawk Dreaming! It will stay with you forever!