When Andrew Bertuleit discovered his passion for photography it inevitably created a new journey in life.
In his late 40s, armed with a Nikon camera, his lens, motorbike, meagre belongings and a deadeye for incredible light and angles, he has spent the last seven years on the bitumen in search of photographic purity. His approach is rare these days: he still loves print, has no social media accounts and will spend days in a location waiting for the amalgam of conditions to align for the perfect photo.
He’ll spend months in a little stall at the Queen Victoria Markets in Melbourne selling his wares and raising funds to spend the rest of the year on his bike. It’s a lonely existence, but it’s led to this exclusive viewing of his journey so far.
BIG4 is proud to bring you these images, painstakingly curated and assembled for your viewing pleasure. And every photo comes with Andrew’s detailed explanation of its creation. It’s Australia like you’ve never seen her, part one. Enjoy.
This effect is something I’d seen on other websites and thought ‘Wow, I wish I could do that’. So I looked it up (it’s called little planet), watched a tutorial, took the shots and played around in photoshop (apparently there’s also an app you can use to do this on your phone), made some mistakes, did it again, tweaked it a gazillion times, took out all the overhead wires because they couldn't line up properly, tweaked it some more and here it is. Melbourne's Fed Square as a circle in a square.
Uluru (or Ayers Rock, depending on how old you are) is not how it seems. Most images of the rock are taken from ground level, either at the sunrise or sunset viewing areas which makes it look roughly the shape of a (very large) loaf of bread. But when you see it from the air you’ll notice it’s longer from front to back than it is from end to end. If I had been able to fly directly over the top and shoot straight down (the traditional owners don’t allow it) you wouldn’t recognise it. The other thing that really hits you when you’re up there is how completely bizarre it is to have this massive rock (nearly) all by itself in the middle of a vast expanse of flat featureless terrain. I say nearly because the Olgas (Kata Tjuta) and Mt Conner are in the same vicinity but that’s about it.
I was told about this spot when I was at the Middleton Hotel (the most isolated pub in Queensland) so I thought I’d check it out. After a 20km drive, a long walk through a dry paddock and a slippery climb over loose rocks to the top of the hill (wearing thongs didn’t help) I checked out the view. Nothing and nobody as far as the eye could see. Except I wasn’t alone. A couple of metres to the left of where I shot this was a huge monitor lizard. I’m sure he wasn’t going to hurt me if I left him alone but the whole time I was shooting I had one eye on him and one on the shot. Between the heat, the flies, the sharp rocks and a five foot-long lizard with huge claws watching me watch him, it wasn’t the easiest shot to get. Good thing there was a pub nearby.
Another shot that took a long time to come about. The Whitsundays are off the east coast near Airlie Beach in Queensland (south of Townsville, north of Mackay) which is a long drive from Melbourne, where I live. Every time I went there hoping to shoot Tongue Point and Whitehaven Beach (the iconic Whitsundays shot) I was unlucky with the weather. I wanted blue skies with a low tide and kept getting cloud or rain, so, rather than hang around hoping for a change, I’d keep driving, heading wherever the weather was better. I kept dropping back in on various trips during the next year or so but it was always bad light, no matter the forecast and, at around $400 an hour for the plane, you want to be pretty sure of getting the right conditions. Finally, on my umpteenth visit and third flight, I had enough sun at the right time of day to get this shot. It’s a beautiful part of the country and I could spend weeks there but I think I’ll give it a rest for a while.
It was like sitting at home on the couch. That’s what I was thinking as we flew smoothly and slowly, hugging the coastline, not in a fixed wing plane like I normally do, but in a comfy helicopter with the door off. Usually I’m in something like a Cessna 152 that has a little window that opens just enough for me to stick my head out into winds strong enough to make it hard to hang on to the camera let alone point it in the right direction or see through eyes that are constantly tearing up. Also I have to twist around in the seat and shoot backwards to keep the wing, support and wheel out of frame. All of which makes it noisy (have to take the headphones off), awkward, and hard to get the right angles, sometimes requiring multiple passes. But now, sitting comfortably with 180 degree unobstructed views, able to shoot any direction I wanted without any wind or noise, telling the pilot to tilt a bit here, move a bit over there, click - luxury. So why not always use a helicopter? 40 minutes cost me $800.
That white streak of light is a four wheel drive zooming past while I was taking a 30 second exposure. I figured the shot was ruined but, when I was finished shooting for the night and looking through the images, it turned out to be the best one. Not sure what the driver thought of me as he went past because I was standing off to the right of the tree with my torch and ‘painting’ the tree with light during the exposure so it wouldn’t come out pitch black. Turns out we both did some painting. The location was in the middle of nowhere - inland northern Western Australia, miles from anywhere, which is where you want to be if you want a night sky without any light pollution. Apart from the vehicular kind.
I’d been trying to get a shot like this for a while but they always jump out in front of you at the last second from the bushes and I’ve never been quick enough. And no, this wasn’t just before I ran him over. Having spotted him off to the left, I slowed the car, grabbed the camera off the passenger seat and waited for him to play chicken. He made his move, click, click, click through the windscreen and that was it. We were in Cape Le Grand National Park, Esperance, Western Australia (Frenchman’s Peak in the background) and if you look close you’ll see he’s having breakfast on the run.
What an amazing place. Stunning. I’ve been almost everywhere in this country at least once and the gorges at Karijini National Park would have to top the list as far as natural beauty goes. To walk through Hancock Gorge and run your hands along the smooth rock walls, wade through icy cold, clear water and imagine as you do how long it must have taken the rains to carve it all out is a special experience. It’s certainly beautiful but it’s also dangerous. More than a few have died either by drowning in flash floods or falling off cliffs. Just getting to where I shot this is tricky, especially carrying my camera gear. Lots of times I thought I was going to fall off the inch wide slippery ledges. Tricky, but worth it. When I was finished shooting and slowly inching my way out again, feeling lucky not to have fallen, a guide for the park, decked out in a mess of ropes, carabiners and assorted climbing gear came practically skipping past me, hands in pockets, hopping from ledge to ledge. I watched him go past, gripped a bit tighter, and went back to inching along.
This is another iconic Australian landscape feature that’s been shot a gazillion times by everyone but none more so than local photographer John D’Errey who has been photographing Byron Bay and selling prints at his shop on the main drag for 20 years. If you’re ever looking for a picture of a specific location it’s always best to check out the local’s work first. They have the luxury of being able to come back time and time again, shooting from as many different vantage points as they need, at different times of the day and night and, most importantly, they can wait for the right weather conditions. When you’re just travelling through you pretty much have to put up with what you have on the day. I like the shot I have but it still took me at least four different visits over a number of years because it was always too wet or too cloudy or too something when I’d swing through. When you’re out on the road you need to be lucky or persistent or both.
I was on a short trip, just driving around Victoria for three or four days, heading nowhere special but trying to go down roads I hadn’t driven a million times already. After a couple of days had gone by and I hadn’t taken one decent shot I was starting to question what I was doing out there (this is not unusual for me). On this morning the forecast was for fog so I got up before dawn with fingers crossed and went looking for something interesting. An hour or so later I still had nothing and was frustrated, annoyed and felt like packing it in and going home. But then I came upon this scene and I was so pleased with the image the last few days didn’t matter. For every shot I take that's good enough to print there are hundreds, sometimes thousands, that aren’t. Which means a lot of wasted time, lots of driving and lots of money spent and nothing to show for it. But, as I have to keep reminding myself, the more time I spend looking the more chance I have of finding something. You never know what’s around the next corner.
No idea who those two guys were. I was just wandering about, trying different angles, looking for one shot that encompasses all that is the Devils Marbles (didn’t get it, don’t know if there is one), when I spotted these two. I did a quick lens change because they were a fair distance away and managed a few shots before they moved on to test their strength elsewhere. This amazing place is about four hours north of Alice Springs which is pretty much right next door to the middle of nowhere but it’s worth the drive. I’ve been there a few times now and I always get a kick out of seeing these massive boulders that look like they’d start rolling if you sneezed on them. As those guys will tell you, they don’t.