Stone Gardens

Stone Gardens

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Stone Gardens
In 2015, groups of professional and non-professional photographers crossed the Blue Mountains on an expedition to photograph the rugged landscapes of the Gardens of Stone. Here, we showcase why these extraordinary landscapes deserve protection for both conservation and recreation.

An area of internationally and nationally significant natural and cultural assets, from stunning rock formations to endangered swamps, from hundred year old ferns to caverns with exquisite Aboriginal rock art – the Gardens of Stone region is a place worth saving. Yet, mining activities in the area continue to degrade its creeks and rivers and contribute to the collapse of cliff faces and without immediate action, this natural wonderland will be damaged beyond recovery.

The photographers returned with hundreds of exquisite images that capture the breathtaking beauty of the Gardens of Stone. On September 2016, 160 of the most striking photographs will come to Sydney in the ‘Gardens of Stone: In Focus’ Photographic Exhibition, curated by Anthony Bond OAM, former Director Curatorial at the Art Gallery of NSW. A kaleidoscope of images that showcases why these extraordinary landscapes deserve protection for both conservation and recreation. 

Henry Gold, one of the photographers who joined the expedition, has dedicated decades of work to the conservation of Australia’s ancient landscapes, following a proud history of defending this unique wilderness with the camera.

“Landscape photography has been an important tool in the preservation of our unique natural areas. In the 1960s and 70s, when many of our wild and scenic places were under threat from mining and logging, photography was a powerful tool to persuade the decision makers”, Henry explains.

In the early 1980s, Peter Dombrovskis took the famous photo ‘Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend, Franklin River’. The pictured river bend was threatened to be drowned by the proposed Gordon below Franklin dam in Tasmania, Australia’s island state. Today, many believe it was this very image that helped the opposition win the following election and assure the protection of Tasmania's last wild river.

“Because of the remoteness and difficult terrain, most politicians never see and experience the beauty of those places”, Henry says. “Presenting them with emotionally charged photographs had a profound influence on their decision making. A more recent example is the world heritage listing of the Blue Mountains. Some members of the world heritage committee were undecided after deliberating for several days until a folio of photographs was presented resulting in an unanimous decision to list the area.”

After his support for the world heritage listing of the Blue Mountains, Henry Gold now has turned his focus on another iconic Australian landscape beyond the world famous mountain range; the ‘Gardens of Stone’. The rugged nature of the Gardens of Stone present challenges to the landscape photographer, both physical and technical. Venturing into this wild place requires physical fitness, experience in bushcraft and elementary rock climbing. The terraced pagoda formations with their horizontal layers of sandstone and iron are relatively easy to climb. The narrow chasms separating the pagodas have vertical walls and are best approached from the bottom of the cliff line. 

Most of the more spectacular pagodas with colours from yellow to orange and rusty reds occur on the western escarpment which can turn into a vista of blazing colours in the setting sun. In the early morning a challenge presents itself when the formations are clad in deep shadows. As the sun rises and begins to illuminate the summits of the pagodas, a skilful photographer can create some stunning images. The harsh subtropical sunlight with its unforgiving intensity makes it undesirable to photograph in the midday hours, except in the dark chasms and overhangs where the reflected brightness can help shorten the exposure.

Visit the exhibition for free and meet some of the photographers who ventured out into this spectacular part of Australia to capture its beauty on camera. Be inspired to follow in their footsteps by visiting the Gardens of Stone for yourself or by sharing their passion in their talks and workshops about landscape photography and conservation during the exhibition.

Information on the exhibition:

In Focus Gallery:

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