On assignment in Perth & Margaret River, Western Australia.
What could be better than a great bottle of wine to enjoy with a well-selected dinner? One with a story to go with it, and I have one white and one red, both improved with a good yarn and a whole load of ‘did you knows’ to go with it.
Driving down a long tree-lined road, vineyards beyond, the countryside is seeming in green as the sunlight filters through the leaves, obliging me to don a pair of sunglasses. I’m on my way to another fine dining experience, however I am not here to indulge, it’s part of a wider shoot on regional food and wine draws, on assignment for The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and have been bundled into a fairly hefty and lumbering 4-birth camper van that handles like a sail that think it’s a kite, so much so that I actually had to cut into the wind to drive in a straight line! Spending 5 days photographing the best of what Perth, Margaret River, and the greater south Western Australia has to offer; degustation, exclusive wine, and ‘black gold’ or perigord truffles, A big point-to-point road trip.
When I got the call to shoot, I was pretty happy; ‘gentleman’s photography’, decadent adventuring, I think that Western Australia does upper-class vacationing very well indeed, and especially in Margaret River, where the Australian middle-classes come to spend their money whilst eyeing up a stunning retirement property set among rolling rows of chardonnay. Trouble was every time I have visited the region before, totalling 4 times to date, the weather was terrible, overcast, and raining more than one occasion. You see, contrary to popular belief, this part of Australia has fairly unpredictable weather and rains quite a bit. The wine makers will revel at the regions similarity to the climate of Bordeaux in Southern France, which I am sure must help the vineyards flourish. My experience was akin to a British summer washout. Not freezing but still reaching for my Jumper to go under my raincoat.
Driving the van to the next location, it suddenly dawns on me that I am one Michael Caine impression short of this being my own personal Australian spin-off of ‘The Trip’ albeit minus a Rob Brydon character (or Steve Coogan depending on your thinking) this sets me off in true theatrical style, a full-bodied rendition of:
“Gentlemen to bed, for we rise at daybreak”
That also meant I was behind the wheel of a large camper van talking to myself!
Cape Grace was the smallest vineyard, true to the words I was illustrating, greeted by an excitable little terrier by the name of Rusty, to then be hustled into the winery warehouse by an equally excitable Robert Karrri-Davies, the vineyard owner.
“I’ve got a great shot for you, going on now”
As it transpires, Robert was a pro photographer of some 25 years experience, based in Northwest Canada as a stringer shooting high-profile sporting events, corporate and advertising gigs. We talked shop over a coffee walking past his impressive display of collected equipment (a whole heap of Hassleblads!), we exchanged tips, though to be fair, he was giving me them. Before I hit the road, he gave me a fantastic bottle of Cabernet Shiraz, I could’ve easily stayed.
Western Australia defines its appeal with an abundance of rich natural beauty; the southern part of the state is tripping over itself in cove after coastal view after cliff top beach scene. I stopped at Salmon beach near a small settlement of beach shacks called Windy Harbour to shoot the setting sun, noting that this has also has been a trip marked by extremes, of food mainly; from the highest order of prepared gourmet meals to the pot noodle I downed whilst staying in the 5-star Cape Lodge resort and the dollar burgers I was now frying up in this beach car park, under the watchful glance of the milky-way.
View more from Margaret River, Perth, and Western Australia:
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