Colours of the rainforest

By Natsumi Penberthy 20 July 2012
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Two photographers give us the Alice in Wonderland tour of north Queensland’s rainforest.

THE FACT THAT HE picked up his first camera professionally in 1958 has not stopped Stanley Breeden from becoming a master at creating HDR (digital exposure stacking) and focus stacking photographs, with the help of partner and fellow photographer, Kaisa Breeden.

Stanley has been a natural history photographer, author and filmmaker since he got his first gig at Queensland Museum in the ’50s photographing “whatever they asked me to”.

“It was a dream gig to learn photography in really,” says Stan. “It was mostly in black and white… When I started Kodachrome colour film had just come out.”

Images of Australia: rainforest riches

That monochrome pallet is a world away from the bright colours that Stanley and Kaisa both highlight with their cameras today. But, they only use natural light.

“I rarely touch the saturation level,” says Kaisa. The former painter is the digital expert of the two and loves to “milk [digital cameras] for every drop of quality we can eke out of them.” 

She’s become handy at the processing side of things and now combines four to five HDR images with 20-25 focus stacking images to get a “bee’s eye view”, she says, of the rainforest environment surrounding them in the shadow of Mt Bartle Frere in tropical far north Queensland. Many of these went into their most recent book, Rainforest Country, published earlier in the year.

“It takes a lot of patience because if something moves, even just a little bit, you might be 18 frames into a focus stack and you have to start all over again,” says Kaisa.

Their first book Wildflower Country, “was a little tricky,” she says. “The wind… every time you were photographing a little daisy and the wind would blow, you had to start again.”

Both photographers agree though that digital aids are giving them a chance to take more representative pictures in difficult, dappled rainforest light using HDR and on a macro level, were depth of field (focus) has always been a problem, using focus stacking.

Love and photography found in north Queensland’s rainforest


Both photographers have long-standing careers in the world of natural history and art. Stanley followed his gig at museum with a trip to India where he made four films with National Geographic, and was based in New Delhi for 11 years. Kaisa, formerly a full-time painter whose subjects were mostly rainforest based, has painting in the blood: both her parents and grandmother are painters.

She “fell in love with Stan’s writing before we ever met”, after reading one of his books, Visions of a Rainforest. “I contrived a fake story about passing through the area, which is silly because it’s a dead end – and that’s how we first met.”

Rainforest Country is available to purchase through Australian Geographic.