THE ever-changing central Victorian landscape inspires Susan Weste's pictures, writes JOHANNA LEGGATT
It is with a degree of relish that photographer Susan Weste reports she is member number 24,789 of the global Cloud Appreciation Society.
The coterie is a motley crew of global "cloud enthusiasts" and Susan is happy to out herself as a proud cloud lover.
"It doesn't really involve doing all that much," she laughs, when I inquire as to what her member duties involve.
"It advocates the idle life; lying back looking at clouds. It's quite gorgeous really. There are now about 34,000 members."
It is not surprising that Susan should sign up for the group, with Victoria's full range of cloud formations - from the gun-metal grey of winter to those wispy configurations of a summer sky steeped in blue - forming an integral part of her photography.
More broadly, Susan is interested in photographing the central Victorian countryside, homing in on the wood, water, rocks and grass in the ever-shifting light.
Citing photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson and Alfred Stieglitz as her inspirations, her solo exhibition at the Castlemaine Art Gallery - Elements of Nature: Meanderings with a Camera - is a paean to the countryside she has called home for many years.
"I just love the landscape around here and, of course, after the drought broke and there was water everywhere, I was able to capture that as well," she says.
"Lake Cairn Curran was dry and now it is this massive lake, and the excitement when the floods came and people were out driving in their cars.
"When the rain came it changed the landscape all over again." Susan has spent most of her adult life between Melbourne and central Victoria, working as a librarian to pay the bills and fund her photography.
She was a relative latecomer to the field: it took a trip to Scotland in her mid-30s to set her on the photography path.
" I started taking photos around Scotland because I was struck by it, the beauty of the place."
While living overseas, she applied to do a photography TAFE course at the then-Prahran college, and was accepted not long after returning home.
"Of course then it was pre-digital and I particularly loved dark room work and I loved black and white," she says.
"So even though this show is digital, I have quite a few black and white images.
"Colour can sometimes confuse an image and black and white shows the form of things.
"Some of the clouds are in black and white because that way they cease to become clouds and become something with shade and shape."
Susan resisted the photographic shift to digital at first, wary that it would convince every tourist with a camera they were now a bonafide photographer.
"It was a challenge at first because I questioned whether it was real photography if everyone has a camera on their iPhones," she says.
"And it seemed all too much like it wasn't special or specialised any more."
Eventually though Susan bought a digital camera and "started cruising around the countryside".
Many of those photos form the central plank for her Castlemaine exhibition.
"I just spend hours driving all over the area and photographing in the different light, the different times of day, the different seasons," she says.