Yarra Valley Seasons

When I found this tree in the Yarra Valley, perched on a set of hills with a character reminiscent of the scenes I drew as a child, I knew I had found the right place. It was time for a new seasonal series! So I continued to photograph the tree over twelve months to explore the changes in light, colour and form as time passed.

I could be fairly sure the land would transition from yellows to greens and back again, but I could not have predicted the fall of light at different times of year or the colours and patterns in the sky. I wondered if the cows would visit regularly and if the tree would wither or thrive. All I knew was that a tree’s world is constantly changing.

The timing turned out to be fortunate. The final image was made in February of 2020, just before a series of strict lockdowns were introduced which would have cut the project short, something I could never have predicted or imagined. The final image captures the effects of another major event and is stained by smoke haze from the 2019-2020 bushfire season. One of the most extensive bushfires in recorded history and perhaps a timely reminder of the path we need to chart for future generations.

With such significant world events on our shoulders, I had to question why a project about a tree should be of any consequence at all, yet I find it even more compelling now. Shifting skies and tinted landscapes have provided endless moods and mixtures which come together in unexpected ways, stirring reflection on our own seasons in life. That so much can be discovered in the simplest of things says a lot for the life of a tree, and its time and place in the landscape.

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Yarra Valley Seasons I, March

2019, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Yarra Valley Tree (I) March
The land remains dry after a warm summer

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Yarra Valley Tree II, April

2019, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Yarra Valley Seasons II (April)
Solice

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Yarra Valley Tree III, May

2019, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Yarra Valley Tree III (May)
Morning hues

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Yarra Valley Tree IV, June

2019, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Yarra Valley Tree IV (June)
A passing warmth

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Yarra Valley Tree V, July

2019, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Yarra Valley Tree V (July)
Echo’s and rhythm

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Yarra Valley Tree VI, August

2019, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Yarra Valley Tree VI (August)
Transient winter light

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Yarra Valley Tree VII, September

2019, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Yarra Valley Seasons VII (September)
Above and below

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Yarra Valley Tree VIII, October

2019, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Yarra Valley Tree VIII (October)
As it was

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Yarra Valley Tree IX, November

2019, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Yarra Valley Seasons IX (November)
Morning fog often obscures the hills before evaporating without much interest. Other times fog swirls are ignited by the suns first rays.

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Yarra Valley Tree X, December

2019, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Yarra Valley Tree X (December)
A hot summer returns

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Yarra Valley Tree XI, January

2020, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Yarra Valley Tree XI (January)
Unfolding light

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Yarra Valley Tree XII, February

2020, Yarra Valley, Victoria

Yarra Valley Seasons XII (February)
Land and sky tinted by smoke haze from the devastating 2019-2020 bushfire season

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Yarra Valley Tree XIII, Loss

2022, Yarra Valley, Victoria

A dead tree on a hill under a cloud
Three years after making the first photograph in this series, I returned to find a withered tree. It was heavily damaged by severe winds in June 2021, about six months prior. This final image expresses my sense of loss and closes out the series for now. At some stage I’m sure the tree will be gone altogether, so I am reserving one more space.

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Behind the scenes

All the photo’s in this series were taken from the same patch of grass with the same lens, so the composition and perspective remains consistent.

Over 20 visits were made to the tree, originally over twelve months, but now the series spans three years. Photo’s were only made if the conditions were ‘right’. Other times the conditions were less favourable, the tree may have been completely obscured by fog, the fall of light and arrangement of patterns uninspiring, or it was just too similar to what I had already seen. Most photographs were taken in the morning, some in the afternoon and some in between.  Generally though, the light and atmosphere was most interesting in the mornings.  

I made about 1000 photo’s all together with many variations in similar conditions.  With the light, clouds and animals moving constantly, I never new exactly what would happen next, so when things looked good I would take a round of photographs as the conditions passed, aiming to anticipate and capture the most compelling moments.

The composition of each image was altered slightly to account for changes in the scene as I felt it necessary at the time. These photographs are truthful to the original fall of light and patterns in the sky, nothing of significance has been altered. The colours express my visual perception and memories of the scene and I have deleted a small bush which pokes up in between the two hills which I considered an unnecessary distraction in the photographs.

John Hardiman
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