Photos: Mick Burnside and the Road to Bells - Part 2
I upgraded to a top end digital camera in mid-2011 and started applying myself to capturing epic water pics from Bells and Winki. Having predominantly surfed for the previous nine years - after bodyboarding before that - my awareness and appreciation had sharpened.
The following pics are from this era of my surf photography journey. A big part of this journey has been Bells and Winki - especially around Easter.
A new or different awareness had awoken in my photographic mind. I was seeking different moments. Seeking a different kind of photo. Swimming and photographing more lumpy swells, and even onshore small days, late arvos and evenings with difficult and confusing light - all part of Bells' natural weather cycle.
The ocean is always moving. I've heard people say they can sit and watch the ocean all day, and that's an act I can relate to. Sunrises, sunsets, different clouds, sun breaking through the clouds, continually changing colours. Capturing that at Bells is a serious challenge. My approach and style of photo is now changing. I don't know if it's for better or worse, it's all open to opinion.
Bells Beach means so much to so many people, and not just surfers nowdays. There's walkers, joggers, day trippers, and international tourists out in force, yet the place is remarkably unchanged, unlike the rapidly unfolding urban sprawl moving from Melbourne toward Geelong and Geelong to Torquay. This is worth observing.
In recent years the waves have been great at Bells for the Easter comp. It's a special time for all surfers and photographers, and a financial boost for many local businesses. I see so many WSL surfers being interviewed stating how special Bells is, how lovely the untouched headland and rural back drop are. Fourteen-year old aspiring surfers making statements with with the maturity of a thirty-year old!
A few years ago alarm bells went off when a tourism development was approved for the Bells area and a community petition against was circulated. I emailed a message to a few contacts I have in WSL surfing circles and received not one reply.
'Disappointed' is the first word that comes to mind. My understanding of the situation is that some people wont speak up because they dont want to upset other business entities. Don't bite the hand that feeds, so to speak.
But the way I see it, Bells is the hand feeding all of us and I believe it's worth preserving. All of it. The beach and the land around Bells. Theres acres of open land to develop on the other side of the Great Ocean Road. That beautiful region of bush, fields, and farmlet could be left, as they are, rather than developing it for more McMansions.
The Surf Coast Shire talks about needing this and needing that, but the only thing the Bells area needs is to be left as it is. Maybe the WSL could speak out against any future development at the Bells region forever?
Please leave the Bells, Winki, and South Side areas as they are.
Like many Australians who are house bound and away from where they would rather be, the restrictions are confronting. I'm missing Bells Beach where I've been fortunate enough to spend so many Easters. But being away from it has given me time to appreciate how important Bells is too me, and hopefully these words and pictures inspire similar thoughts in you too.