Tree Ferns and Mountain Ash
Now semi-retired, Peter was as a biologist and educator. For the past 40 years he has provided professional photographic services in these roles. In 1980 Peter developed a passion for photography that has never left him and he continues to actively photograph and engage in his biological pursuits. Peter's images have illustrated publications and exhibitions by many organisations including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Museum of Victoria, Victorian Institute of Marine Sciences, the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial and Research Organisation, Ozbreed Turf and Scienceworks. Peter's image, "Tree Ferns and Mountain Ash", won a Citation of Merit in the Fine Art category of the BioImages 2020 Salon.
“Photography enables me to share with others my intrigue with nature – celebrating its infinite diversity and intricate detail.”
– Peter Kinchington
© Peter Kinchington, BSC
What was your concept when creating this image?
My favourite terrestrial habitat in Australia is the Wet Sclerophyll found in Victoria and Tasmania. Here you find the magnificent Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) - the tallest flowering plant in the world. It can grow over 100 metres in height. As an understorey, you find a plant that reminds me of the ancient continent of Gondwanaland – the wonderful Tree Fern. I was inpired by the artist Eugene von Guerard's images of Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges that he created in the mid 19th century. I wanted to take a photograph with an old world feel that would do justice to this forest type.
Tell us something about your creative process for this image.
I previsualised a composition with treeferns in the foreground and mountain ash in the background. I needed a more compressed perspective than my 120mm f/6.8 lens offered on my 4x5 inch view camera. I vowed to go back and photograph the scene another day with a longer lens.
Two weeks later I procured a used soviet era 300mm f/10 process lens and mounted it in reverse using a step up ring glued to my spare lens board. The symmetrical design of the lens meant that I could use it this way for landscapes and close ups.
I then took the opportunity to go to my chosen location on a still, misty morning. The mist gave depth to the image and being a still time of the day – I was able to use a slow speed of 15 minutes at f/90 using my lens cap as a shutter.
I used the classic Fomapan 100 ISO black and white panchromatic film rated at 50 ISO. I developed the 4x5 inch negative using stand development in dilute (1:100) rodinal solution. This technique gives a negative with a wide tonal range and high acutance.
What technical issues did you have, or have to work out, to create this image?
I used the small aperture of f/90 to ensure that everything was in focus because the light was dim and I could not focus precisely on the ground glass wide open at f/10. I had to allow for reciprocity failure of the black and white film which gave a long exposure of 15 minutes.
What elements are important to you when you judge or critique your work or the work of other professional photographers?
Is it visually stimulating and aesthetic? Does it convey the message or show the important elements and or structures that the photographer's client wants to illustrate?
What is your photographic background?
I am a self taught biological and scientific photographer. My formal qualifications were in zoology and immunology with post graduate qualifications in natural resource management and teaching.
Who are some of your favourite photographers?
Stephen Dalton of Oxford Scientific (www.stephendalton.co.uk) was a pioneer of insect in flight photography. He developed special equipment and high speed powerful flashes in the 1970s enabling him to capture flying insects on Kodachrome 25 ISO film. I can relate to Stephen because his sports teacher once said of his cricket skills, "Dalton is more interested in the lily of the valley rather than the pursuit of the game" referring to his being distracted by observing insects on the flowers in the outfield position. I also used to be distracted from cricket by watching bees on the flowers instead of keeping my eye on the ball.
Ansel Adams the renowned landscape photographer whose development of the zone system enabled him to produce exquisite black and white photographs of US national parks. Max Dupain excelled in the use of the contrasty and harsh Australian sunlight to produce iconic images such as "The Sunbaker" in 1937.
Which photographers inspire or influence you?
Those photographers that have an eye for detail and could create a wonderful image with a box brownie if need be. I think the Australian photographer Olive Cotton had such a gift and her image of "Teacup Ballet" illustrates this ability. Her camera was a Rolleiflex TLR that used 120 roll film.
Do you have any advice for photographers interested in a photography career in biomedical/life sciences?
If you have a passion for biological sciences and an artistic bent, I do not believe that you could find a better career path.
How has being a member of the BCA helped you?
I have enjoyed learning about the techniques used by other members such as the two photon photomicroscopy of Jamie Hayden.
As a career biologist, my photographs have been utilised for scientific publications and as a way to convey the beauty and diversity of the natural world. I am able to apply my skills in underwater, landscape, nature and photography through the microscope to help others convey their own messages. My images have illustrated publications and exhibitions by many organisations including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Museum of Victoria, Victorian Institute of Marine Sciences, the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial and Research Organisation, Ozbreed Turf and Scienceworks. My photographs have appeared in scientific reports as well as popular technical and photographic magazines and in an online indigenous vegetation guide for the Shire of Yarra Ranges.
In the Australian Professional Photography Awards I have received both Gold and Silver Awards for my work. Further recognition includes honourable mentions in specialist world wide photomicrography competitions including the Olympus Bioscape Awards, an image of distinction in the Nikon Small World Awards and now a Citation of Merit for my Treeferns and Mountain Ash image from the BCA. I am based in the Shire of Yarra Ranges near Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
From my childhood days I have been fascinated by the natural world. The first sentence that I wrote in primary school talked about the ants I had observed on our back steps and how they were hurrying back to their nesting holes with food they had collected – even illustrating the sentence with a close-up drawing!
Photography enables me to share with others my intrigue with nature – celebrating its infinite diversity and intricate detail. During my photographic pursuit to convey the fascinating natural diversity of the world we live in – I have researched and developed advanced imaging techniques. I am sought after by research institutions and organisations for my ability to utilise these techniques to provide aesthetic images that illustrate important features in organisms both large and small.