Sunset ahoy Airlie Beach

There’s nothing quite like the ocean colour in Tropical North Queensland. It must be a combination of the bright sunlight and the shallow waters that lie within the Great Barrier Reef. Even as the sun sinks, the water still has the vestiges of that intense turquoise.

Many years ago when I lived in Melbourne, I decided to paint a seascape inspired by a trip to Brampton Island. None of the blues in my paint box came anywhere near the colour of the tropical water, and I failed dismally in trying to blend the right colour. It was then that I discovered Cobalt Turquoise, a blue green that is impossibly bright for the oceans and light of the southern Australia where I lived, but perfect for the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

I recalled this as the colours faded, and I sipped champagne on the Provendence V, looking over the ocean towards Airlie Beach. In true Slow OZ Travel style we chose the beautiful schooner, with its magnifiicant sails and fluid lines, over the noisy party boat for our Airlie Beach Sunset Cruise. This classic gaff-rigged schooner is a replica of the Grand Banks fishing boats that plied the waters around Newfoundland.

As we stood bare-footed on the deck watching the light change, the engine cut and the sails went up. Up until then I’d been taking photos. It was only later looking through my shots that I noticed something interesting about the rigging. Pareidolia, the tendency of the human brain to see patterns in random things, at play. Our brains seem programmed to see human faces and figures, even where they don’t exist.

It’s amazing what a difference exposure makes in photography. Playing around with different exposures gave the ship’s rigging an uncanny likeness to a person watching the sunset, more accidental than intentional. The top photo is 1/400th sec at f/10 and the bottom one is 1/250th sec at f/5. I’ve converted the top photo to black and white to further emphasise the silhouette effect.

Abstract cave faces

Abstract cave faces.JPG

Pareidolia is the perception of a recognisable image or meaningful pattern where none exists or is intended. We  humans, seem to have an innate tendency to make pictures – particularly of human faces – from random elements. These marks on the wall of the limestone cave wall located in the Cutta Cutta Caves nature Park 30km south of Katherine, conjured up two  abstract faces for me. A stretch of the imagination perhaps.

Entertaining tour guides point out more obvious imagery, playfully drawing in their audience by punctuating the often lengthy list of facts they impart. Richard our guide at the Cutta Cutta Caves pointed out Elvis Presley’s head, a silverback gorilla, and the rib cage of a whale as we descended into its belly, saying that school groups are his best source of inspiration.

I am forever seeing human elements in my abstract works. Sometimes I leave them submerged, for viewers to find, should they go searching, other times I draw them out.


60x60cm, Acrylic on cotton