Winter’s Ant Farm by Ty Stedman

I have always been mesmerised by the intricate details in nature. The way that the veins form on the rear of a leaf, to the standing wave that holds its place as the surrounding stream cascades past.

I have always been mesmerised by the intricate details in nature. The way that the veins form on the rear of a leaf, to the standing wave that holds its place as the surrounding stream cascades past.

I was very lucky growing up in South Africa where I was given the freedom to explore our town on bike during the week and the weekends would often entail visiting a relative who was a ranger at a nearby game reserve. This must have founded my love for nature and so grew my interest in the natural world. 

It was several years later, once I had graduated from the University of Western Australia with a double degree in Science and Commerce that I picked up a camera with more purpose and went about documenting the world around me. Being completely self-taught, my learning really only progressed once cameras turned to digital and I was able to experiment with my photography and benefit from the instant feedback gained through digital capture.

Another key milestone in my photographic development was finding something that I was truly passionate about. Something that really resonated and fuelled my desire to keep moving, growing and exploring. I feel that this is integral to any artistic pursuit as to sustain motivation over the years requires passion.

For me, this motivation came in the form of aerial photography. Up until then, I was more of a landscape generalist, which I found pretty exhausting. The insatiable desire to stop the car at the site of any potential vista made travel with a young family difficult, but at the same time they have benefited from visiting far-flung places that some could only dream of. Fortunately, they have all developed a trait of patience whilst we have travelled all around Western Australia and Australia over recent years. The move to concentrate almost wholly on aerial photography has enabled more focussed aerial shoots where I can plan a few, one, two or three hour flights, and still find time to enjoy the unique places that we venture to without needing to experience everything through a lens.

I only shoot from aircraft and helicopters for the benefit of exploration as well as the connection with the subject below that I have always found difficult to attain using a drone. 

Last year we travelled up to Broome, in the Kimberley region of Western Australia – a one-way trip of 2200km. My three year old son joined me for the ride north whilst my wife and two other children join us in Broome a week later. Every journey is an opportunity to explore somewhere new and I was fortunate to spend approximately 15 hours in the air for this trip.

So onto Winter’s Ant Farm… 

I have been extremely fortunate to visit New Zealand every year for the past six years, visiting family, undertaking some solo photography trips and leading photography tours to the South Island. 

Living in Western Australia, where it is considerably flat by European and New Zealand standards, along with our snowless landscape, I feel incredibly drawn to  the mountains of New Zealand. A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit the South Island once more, and I had imagined an aerial shoot that could fulfil everything that I seek within an image. Whilst I love shooting the abstract forms of the plentiful and diverse salt lakes of Western Australia, for me the creation of a minimalist aerial landscape is what I ultimately strive to capture. My vision for the shoot was to use the snow the ideal canvas to isolate the human subjects and manmade structures to fulfil this vision. The plan was to shoot on a weekend at the same time as when a downhill skiing event was underway to ensure that the slopes had a number of characters at play. 

From altitude, there is often little distinguishing us from the insect world that we tower above on a daily basis. The series is as much an anthropological study as it is representative of a winter landscape in the land of the long white cloud – Aotearoa. I find particular interest in the figurative elements, minimalist aspects and the interaction of humans with the white canvas as they express and recreate. From a distance, patterns of human behaviour can become even more evident by the way we are controlled and corralled into position, awaiting our turn to cycle through the system once more.

The series has been overall well received with a first place for the Winter Sports Category of the 2018 International Photography Awards, Winner of the Landscape Category of the Australasian Emerging Photographer of the Year Awards and a Gold at the 2018 Australian Institute of Professional Photography Awards amongst the accolades received for individual images and the collective series. 

My future plans are to document more of the Western Australian landscape from the air and once the COVID-19 pandemic eases and the world moves closer to some normality, I plan on extending the series with shoots planned in Japan, Europe and North America.

I am also looking to expand on the photo tours that I am currently involved in. These will be expanding to offer clients the opportunity to learn aerial photography in the outback of Australia and to explore some of the treasures that Western Australia has to offer from both land and air. [Official Website]

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