Cardinal Light

Cardinal Light explores the metaphysical presence of this Cider Gum in the landscape. Cardinal directions NSEW have more than directional value for the first nations people to whom this tree is considered a living ancestor.

A tree emerging from the cardinal light of time

Cardinal light points us to the life and function of this tree. For the Lairmairrennier Nation, the Cider Gum is their ancestral tree. Each tree is considered an individual of the clan. This living ancestor remembers and records the activities of its people prior to colonial occupation. See below for further information on the importance of the Cardinal orientation.

While the original film negatives were taken with a highly precise Hasselblad camera with crisp detail. This was deliberately and artistically rendered in lightroom to emphasize the ephemeral nature of the tree. This helps us to see past the detail and complexity of this giant and see the form overlayed with its allusive past.

Rules for the series: Photograph the tree from the four cardinal points. Two images – Base and Canopy overlapping center.

Technical: Camera – Hasselblad Film 80mm lens. Manual setting: HP5 film ISO800 Developed then scanned – post work digital.

Scroll down for the complete series and purchase details.


Cardinal Light N: Cider Gum North face. Two Black and White images vertical
Cardinal Light North

North is the face of life and celebration. This is the face of the cider gathering and the festival celebration of life and another year of living. It faces the sun which warms the sap and makes it the productive side for tapping. In the Southern Hemisphere at latitude 42-S Northern light is essential for growth. As the gum is evergreen most energy is gathered from this side even in winter. You can see this light flooding the limbs and the tree dancing in the light.

Though this tree, like all the cider gums, is now dying and has much fewer leaves than it should. Its bare bones are now very visible like the malnourished.


Cardinal Light S: Cider Gum South face. Two Black and White images vertical
Cardinal Light South

South is the face of shelter and death. The south because the precious cider was tapped from the north – although this tree was never a Tap tree. The damage to the south side also left the North face with more reserves for the tree’s survival in the harsh winter.

First Shelter

You can see above the burnt scar hole a larger scar. This blaze was cut to provide a panel of thick bark and wood for hut building. Many panels would be collected from nearby trees to build the hut. These were strong semi-permanent shelters that could hold a family group during their time over many summers on the central plateau. Winds here often reach 160km/hr and snow is common in summer.

Then Death

Then Death. The trees were deliberately burnt on the south side. They were prepared as a burial/internment site for the individual who was the custodian of the tree. It also provided comfort and temporary shelter for this person throughout their lives. The bonds were strong. Then in death, the body was interred in the tree and the opening was blocked with wattle and branches to prevent predation. So in time the person and tree become one.


Cardinal Light E: Cider Gum East face. Two Black and White images vertical
Cardinal Light East

The east is the face of morning light. The sun comes over the low ridge and lights this side first. With the sun always comes hope. This tree stood in a clearing kept so by seasonal burning. This is evident by its wide-reaching branches – its structure was laid out through centuries of care. These were wallaby grazing grounds. Today a group of younger gums – many invasive black gums (able to grow here on higher altitudes due to lack of snow) – grow on its northern side. This will affect the nutrients available and represents a threat to these ancients particularly as they have not had the nurturing of cultural burning practices for 200 years.


Cardinal Light W: Cider Gum West face. Two Black and White images vertical
Cardinal Light West

The West face is the face of the setting sun. And as the sun sets on this ancient Cider Gum, it is truly set on this group of trees for good. The pressures of; rising temperatures, lack of snow, and sodden wet ground over winter, due to lack of seasonal permafrost. The invasion of new species to the area will crowd out these remnant trees. The removal of traditional custodians of this area before 1830, in a colonization of a human kind, removed the nurture and care that made these trees need. It has been a slow setting sun.

Epilogue or Eulogy.

In the 7 years, I have been visiting these trees I have witnessed many of these significant trees die. While this tree is perhaps the healthiest of them all I am seeing and recognizing the signs of rapid decline.

Available for Purchase

As this is a Photographic work, they are available as non-limited edition signed prints.

Series of 4 individual 17″ wide prints (4 x 2 images) $1400

Individual Pairs available at 17″ wide $400

Series printed on 17″ roll paper in one combined image (thus 17″ high) $750

Plus freight. Framing is the responsibility of the purchaser.

Larger sizes are available on negotiation with the artist. Smaller images are not available for this work.

All Photographs are Giclee printed on Archival Acid-free papers and archival pigment inks. As with all works on paper, do not hang in direct sunlight.