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Pandanus, People and Photography

May 15, 2010

By Augustine Mathews

Have you noticed that cork-screw palms are the latest and greatest thing in modern garden design? On our recent trip to Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island we found out that love for these wondrous plants is not a modern thing.Ranger Jermaine, our very knowledgeable guide on the K’gari walk at Kingfisher Bay told us of the marvels that the pandanus plant “Pandanus tectorius”. For the Butchulla people who are the traditional Aboriginal people of the Fraser Coast region, the pandanus was both a blessing and a curse.

The ripe pods of the pandanus can provide a delicious treat for those that know how to get at it. Unfortunately this is one of those times where moderation is the key and Jermaine tells an amusing story of his Uncle eating too much and ending up trapped on the toilet for lengthy periods. Thankfully, as he explained, the blessing part then comes into play.

This marvellous palm provides its own cure. When eaten, the base of the pandanus leaf has a stomach calmative that can relieve the effects of over-indulgence in the fruit, a fact his Uncle fortunately knew of. What a lucky fellow and what a clever plant.

Not only is this a fantastic palm to grace the most modern of homes it is also an important plant in the indigenous culture of Fraser Island. Love them or hate them, cork screw pines are an ancient reminder of how all things old are new again.

22 year old Ranger Jermaine is a direct descendant of the Butchulla people. He’s an energetic and dedicated young man and his knowledge of bush tucker and medicine has been passed down through the generations. He now glows at the opportunity to be sharing this with others on his beloved island.

So what has this got to do with photography? Well some of you may have heard my line, ‘I don’t do people.’

And yes that has been a fact, but since commencing work with Bluedog I don’t often get a choice. From my first assignment when Danielle would not tell me what we were doing till she had me in the car and we were driving, ‘you have to do 12 individual portraits for a website’ (yes it was a trap and I fell right into it) I have learnt a great deal.

Working with people is not easy. They talk, move, fidget, itch and scratch. Since then I have been on more assignments with Danielle where we have had to meet people and within half an hour take a character portrait – this I can say is not easy but a task I have readily taken on. It’s a whole new ball game when there is a commissioning magazine or a corporate client at the end of the line, each use to Danielle’s high quality capture.

I watch her engage the person, befriend them and be truly interested in what they are doing. She has usually done her research and knows something about them though on this trip to Fraser with Danielle I saw her meet and photograph people she had never heard of and still manage a terrific image. That is a knack, a true talent and one I intend to perfect very quickly.

The experience of working with Danielle on jobs such as these has made me a better photographer on all levels. Being thrust the camera and being told you are doing this image is daunting. Not only is the lighting and the pressure of getting that shot a challenge, the biggest player on my nerves has been Danielle by my side. However she encourages me, pushes me (sometimes physically – that is to get in closer and ‘cut the crap’) to do better and I can now see that in my people images. So do I still do people? That depends. I have to honest here Danielle and to the rest of the Bluedog team if it means travel count me in!

All plant material in the National Park is protected, so look but do not pick. Always be careful sampling bush tucker as many plants contain harmful toxins. If any doubt about a plant do not eat it.

The Bluedog-Kingfisher Bay Resort Fraser Island Photography Tours are a wonderful way to meet the rangers, hear stories and capture images of this internationally recognised environment – the world’s largest sand island. The tour showcases the best that Fraser Island and Kingfisher Bay Resort while concentrating on the photographic skills that go along with such a great adventure. Click for more information on this fabulous tour.

Capturing the true personality of a person, their characteristics, and their qualities after a short meeting is not easy.
Here what I wanted to capture was Jermaine’s cheeky smile,
his love of the island and his heritage.
Image by Augustine Mathews

I am really interested- thanks Danielle.
Not sure why the whole image is not loading but after 3 attempts I am giving up :)
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Without a doubt the most famous and photographed Pandanus
on Fraser Island.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Nicky gets in close on the amazing Pandanus root system during a
Bluedog-Kingfisher Bay Photography Tour.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

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