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A rainforest tree screams out against a stormy background: a silent protest against clearfelling of the rainforest scrub that once clothed this hillside, and against the recent clearfelling of the hoop pine plantation that for 60 years took its place.

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Comments (8)

Marilyn Whiteley on December 3, 2007

Ian, do you know the photography writing of Freeman Patterson? Photography and the Art of Seeing is one of his books. I think he is someone who has written reflectively about photography and does successfully include his photographic images in it. Marilyn

Ian Stehbens on December 3, 2007

Marilyn, no I don't know his work. I'll have a look at amd see if there are any available there - although the freight charges make my buying from them unlikely. (As I know you like story let me tell you that I went to order some peacebuilding books the other day from their network of 2nd hand dealers and as the order totalled only $80 I was delighted, but then the freight was added and the bill came to $195. I cancelled the order!) PS. The post-clearfelling image taken in the forestry is from the area of my childhood. It will always be special to me. Ian

Marilyn Whiteley on December 4, 2007

If you look on Patterson's web site, you might be interested in two short bits of his writing, namely his "Art Statement" and, if you click on "Books," the excerpt that you find by clicking on "ShadowLight." I mention this because there's enough on the site so you might easily miss the latter, especially.

According to his bio on the site, the time he spent at Union Theological Seminary in New York City overlapped my time there by one year. He was finishing his M.Div. when I returned to begin work on my Ph.D. But, due to circumstances (another long story), I (like most M.A. and Ph.D. candidates) was not integrated into the larger, divinity degree community. I certainly didn't know him.

And yes, I returned to this photo where I'd commented before because I find it a powerful image. Marilyn

Ian Stehbens on December 5, 2007

And yes, Marilyn, I am glad you appreciate the statement in this photo. As you can tell from my caption, I wasn't sure that too many would understand, so I spelt it out. However I am sure you and Hugh understand. Thanks, Ian

Ian Stehbens on January 18, 2011

I was back again to this site recently. This particular tree has gone, and the whole cleared hillside has been replanted to Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) again.

Valinda on January 28, 2011

Your photos are great Ian, this is one of my favourite regions in Australia. I have trouble with your comment though, you idealise grassy, dairy farm-vistas in your other photos; dairy farms that were also cleared of their original scrub. Timber is a renewable resource. It is solid solar energy. If it was not for foresters and native forest timber harvesting, then the beautiful ranges and national parks in your photos would have been cleared long ago for grazing.

Ian Stehbens on January 29, 2011

Thanks very much for your response, valinda, for I appreciate your challenge as well. Being the son of a sawmiller, and grandson of teamsters and having the first native pine (hoop) plantation forestry in Australia as my heritage, I have a great appreciation of the forests and of the forestry enterprises of the Queensland government departments, particularly in this district. But that doesn't inhibit or silence critique of operations when I believe it is appropriate. And over the years there has been need for that, and foresters have adjusted practices through time.

This particular title-comment is primarily poetic, for if that tree could speak I am sure it would be a bereft cry. And it would speak for me. My earliest memories of this hillside are of a young plantation of hoop pine (aftyer clearfelling), way before the first thinnings. And then as it matured the successive thinnings allowed a forest of quality trees to clothe the hillside. It was a joy to show visitors the way in which rainforest species regenerate beneath the canopy of this particular logging area. Epiphytes and ferns abounded, for example, in addition to woody species. Then to discover it had been harvested, was like the death of a friend. Of course there was living emotion.

I suspect you may have implied or overstated my inconsistency a little in your reference to my idealising the bucolic landscapes of dairy farms and the like. Without close scrutiny of my previous remarks, I suspect that what you describe as idealisation was in fact an appreciation of landscape quality, with its elements of variety, colour, mood and even majesty in some cases, which need not imply a judgement of history. Landscape aesthetics may be appreciated in built environments, agricultural landscapes, wilderness areas and in forestry landscapes such as this. (This linked image was received from the same location on Derrier Hill.)

My immediate prior comment above indicated that though this particular tree has since been felled, this logging area has been replanted. The plantation cycle continues on this site.

In the current summer, I have revisited this area a couple of times, specifically observing the water quality and sediment yields of the streams flowing out of Imbil State Forest, and as you would anticipate, the lack of erosion was most evident.

I certainly am with you on this being one of our favourite regions in Australia. I look forward to creating more images of this special area.

Once again, thanks for your respectful conversation and affirmation.

Kind regards,


Ian Stehbens on August 2, 2011

I have recently learnt that this hillside was once known as "Bob Stehbens' Rhodes Grass paddock".

Robert G. Stehbens was a teamster whose working bullocks and horses were kept on leased paddocks within the Imbil State Forest. With his bullocks and horses (he had both a horse team and a bullock team) Bob hauled logs to Imbil mills and from the mills to the railway station. This particular slope was seeded with Rhodes grass. He used a scythe to reap Rhodes grass in seed from roadsides, bagged it and then spread the grass across this cleared hillside. This paddock produced an excellent swathe of grass upon which his teams grazed. He also harvested grass seed from this paddock to seed other grazing areas. Bob was assisted by Jack Grainger, his close friend and employee. Jack's son, Alwyn Grainger, was my informant. Bob Stehbens was my grandfather. Ironic in a way, as Valinda implies, but it was Bob who planted in me the seeds of my love for this forested landscape.


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Photo details

  • Uploaded on August 3, 2007
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Ian Stehbens