Ann Britton Photography: My Outback

From any coastline on Australia, when you head inland…that could be classed as the “outback.” For my outback, the traveling inland happens in Queensland, on the east coast of Australia.
australia highly detailed editable political map with separated layers.

Thanks Google for this free map of Australia

When you travel west of Brisbane (capital of Queensland) on the Warrego Highway, at what point do you think you are in Outback Queensland?

Roma claims to be the gateway to Outback Queensland.
Roma is 476.7km west of Brisbane.

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Landsborough Highway

Blackall claims to be the gateway to Outback Queensland as well.
Blackall is 964km northwest of Brisbane on the Landsborough Highway.

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A joint project by the community of Blackall for some amazing signage outside their town.

Side note: Does anyone else ever think about the naming of highways, towns, bridge crossings, creeks, properties (farms) as they are travelling, or is it only me?

Both of these settlements are wonderful towns, with an enormous amount of rich history and wonderful enterprises of businesses to service their communities and tourists. Plus accommodating those who chose to live in and around these towns, and visitors.
There are numerous towns and properties between Roma and Blackall and beyond in all directions. Each in Outback Queensland, with their own stories.

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Landsborough Highway

Of course you can travel west of any city/town on the Queensland coast and be in Outback Queensland.

When I am travelling from Townsville, back home and I come down off a jump-up, east of Hughenden, on the Flinders Highway, and the land opens up and you can see for miles…that is when I let out a big sigh…when I seem to be able to breathe easier…that I’m not “confined” anymore. I’m getting closer and closer to “My Outback”

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The Min Min Way, at the Middleton Channels, just west of the only iconic working pub left, as part of Cob & Co coach days, the famous Middleton Pub

When do I feel like I am in “My Outback?” …when I’m west of Winton…1357.4km from Brisbane…on the Min Min Way. Where the double lane highway gives way to a single strip of bitumen “beef road.” Where the hills are few and far between. Where you can tell where the waterways are because that is where most of the trees are growing. Where your imagination runs wild, knowing the landscape was an underwater playground for some of the world largest marine dinosaurs. Where there are miniature “wild west” shaped hills with their massive rocky outcrops formed by water from an inland sea that covered this country millions of years ago. Where the country becomes flatter, and your eyes can see for miles across naturally treeless plains. Where even a hint of elevation allows you to see even further. Where the stories of Min Min Lights make your mind wonder at the mystery of the yet explained cryptic ball/s of light. Where there are plentiful wedgies soaring effortlessly above this ancient land seeking out their next meal or feeding themselves on roadkill. Where bountiful red kangaroos hop across the lands and emus make Ninja moves, if you get too close for their comfort. Where there are generous flocks of galahs, corellas, pigeons, red beaks naming only a handful of the many species of birds that occupy my outback. Where, depending on the season you will see impressive flights of budgerigars, and even pelicans. Channels and hills, where possibly no human has walked.

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If only they could talk, these hills near Middleton, shaped by water, wind, sun…a playground for underwater dinosaurs whose skeletons grace the fossil museums at Boulia Heritage Centre.

The further west I go, the more relaxed I become as I am getting closer, to the place I have called home for nearly 40 years.

I treasure being able to drive from the coastal towns to home and vice-versa. To travel over this amazing land of ours. To enjoy the uniqueness of the different areas. To look at all the agricultural businesses in all the different region, to wish them all enough of whatever they need to make a living. Mostly rain. To the crop growers, hoping they get the right rain when they need it. To smile when the country looks lush with ground cover and grasses and the stock benefitting from a good season. To drive through country towns and see their attractions and read their history. To experience and support the town’s local businesses.
To wonder about those that walked before us.
I offer a wave to all I come across on the roads I travel. I give a very enthusiastic wave to all the truckies on the road, and an even bigger whole-hearted one to the cattle carters.

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Outback cattle carting roadtrain, 6 decks. The drivers have a skill to pull three trailers on a double lane highway, that is one thing…to pull 6 decks loaded with bovines on a single lane “beef road” is a totally different thing.

Our rich outback aboriginal history should always be remembered. I marvel how these people, with their magical dreamtime stories, survived in “my outback.” Knowing just how reliant they were on permanent waterholes and being nomadic what a “good season” could possibly mean for them. The intuition of aboriginal people I have always admired. No doubt their connection to the land and acute awareness of survival allowed them to endure the outback.
The aboriginal people had knowledge of the land. White man explorers didn’t have any knowledge. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like for both Aboriginals and Europeans to come across land they never encountered before, with only the resources they carried with them. I have stood in remote areas of our properties, where no man most likely ever stood before. It is a surreal feeling. The huge difference is, I could walk back to my car and drive away. The people that walked before me had to survive, wherever they stood in the outback.  

Outback Australia is a massive area, with a small population, compared to coastal Australia. So, no matter where “outback” is to you, regardless of if you live there or visit, I hope you treasure it. That you get to know it, experience it with an open heart. Get to understand this magnificent land and its history.

Dorothea Mackellar got it so right, all those years ago. “Dorothea Mackellar’s iconic verse is now regarded by many Australians as the universal statement of our nation’s connection to the land.” Written in about 1904 and titled “Core of My Heart” and first published 5th September 1908…the well-known author changed the poems name to “My Country” in her first book.
A good quote from another well know Australian author Jeannie Gunn…think, We of the Never Never… “We who have lived in it, and loved it, and left it, know that our hearts can never-never rest away from it”
I get where both these Australian ladies are coming from, totally, wholeheartedly.

This land, the outback, is unforgiving if you don’t take the time to understand her. She’s beautiful, harsh, magnificent, secretive and deserves respect. She’s an open book if you only listen. Her history is amazing. The transformations she has undertaken date back millions of years. Her soils are some of the oldest in the world. She was here long before any man walked upon her.

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This is the view you can see from your car while travelling Outback Queensland. A forever changing big sky, wide open spaces theatre of natural wonder.

My ego isn’t that ignorant that I think I own “my outback.” Far from it. It is the connection to the area that I claim to be “my outback” that I feel privileged and truly grateful to feel so united to this land, with its many natures.
I’m so totally blessed to have an eye and skill with a camera and feel such a wonderful fortunate association with “my outback” and I get to share my love of this land and all her moods via my lens.
How wonderful to have the technology to unite with the world outside my home. To connect with many that are keen to know more, to rekindle memories of those that have lived, worked and played in the Australian Outback.
One of my challenges, taking my outback photography, either via Dame Drone (DJI Phantom 4 Pro), iPhone, BadBoy or Princess (Nikons) has been the amazing amount of light that is out here.

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A photo of “Hamilton Drover” …Garland Cattle Transport…a prime mover, driving on the gravel Coorabulka Road, with equivalent of 6 decks, a double A B trailer combo…full of finished bullocks…showing the vastness of the naturally treeless plains. Near the Goodwood houses and buildings to the left. Our open country, at the time this photo was taken, it was too dry to graze cattle on, but our channel country further south, on Mudgeacca, had enough dry feed to sustain and fatten cattle.
This photo was taken from drone footage.

One of my favourite quotes is by George Eastman
Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.

Side note: of course, personally, I have no idea what sort of man George Eastman was, but reading his business sense he sounded such an extraordinary visionary.

Another challenge I make for myself is to try and make my audience feel like they are standing beside me while I capture photos in my outback. Believe me when I say I feel like doing a “mad crazy frog dance” when someone says to me after they looked at one of my photos “I felt I was there, beside you.” I feel so blessed, honoured, rewarded, proud.
I have come to believe the fact that I respect “the light” and land, that I am wholly present in the “now” when capturing what I value completely, makes my photographs so connecting to whomever appreciates my skill of seizing that moment in time. History that will never be repeated. That is what is “alive” in my photography and allows people to feel they are there with me. That I put my heart and soul into my photographs. There is reason and purpose within my photos. Not just for social media likes.

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I have always used my photographs to tell a story. From when my love of outback photography started in 1981, when I was 15. Way before social media. When I felt photographing… on my little instamatic Kodak film camera, all things “life on a station” (large farm in the Northern Territory) …that each capture was history. That moment would never be repeated exactly as I shot it ever again.
As the years went by, I wanted to use my photography to tell “my outback” work and play stories. I could capture the story better than I could explain it in words. Thankfully, my photography and grammar have evolved and improved, and will continue to do so.
I love, love, love the fact that I am constantly learning every day…but especially in “my outback” photography space.

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Thanks to Katrina and Andy Christ for this photo of me “in action” on the banks of the Burke River north of Boulia, with my Nikon camera I call #BadBoy and my sports zoom Sigma lens I call #BA, aka bad ass.