Amazing
salt pond

By Tui Benjamin


An intrepid photographer was tipped out of a plane to capture these other-worldly aerial shots of isolated salt evaporation ponds – which look just like abstract art.

Snapper Peter Franc persuaded a pilot to take the doors off his aeroplane with a screwdriver so he could have an uninterrupted view of the lakes in Western Australia.

Pic by Peter Franc/Caters News

The 36-year-old, from Bondi Beach, Sydney, discovered the vast Shark Bay Salt site – which produces 1.4 million tonnes of salt a year – after spending hours trawling for unusual landscapes on Google Earth and social media.

Peter travelled to the desolate location – more than 900km from Perth in a town called Useless Loop – to take the art-like photographs in January this year.

The interface designer, who specialises in fine art photography, said: “The salt lakes were without doubt the most mystical, strange and surreal thing I’ve ever seen.

“To put the camera down and just look out at this landscape in front of you – with no point of reference – is mind boggling.

Pic by Peter Franc/Caters News

“I find it inspirational, that nature can amaze us so completely. That there are so many new things in the world to see – even if this is nature being tamed a little by man.

“It felt like a colour palette that no human could reproduce. It was like flying over a gigantic makeup box being used for the extras of Avatar.

“The pilot who flew me, Lincoln, was the best I’ve worked with to date.

“He removed the rear door of his Cessna 206 – a plane dubbed ‘the Landrover of the sky’ –with a few quick twists of his trusty screwdriver.

“This allowed us some special manoeuvring to achieve a more top-down perspective.

“At key moments, the pilot would tilt the plane sideways and I’d be strapped in my seat, looking straight down at this art piece straight out the window.

Pic by Peter Franc/Caters News

“It was more than a little sickening though, and looking through the telephoto lens and constantly recomposing took a pretty quick toll on me.

“I don’t usually get airsick, but with all the shaking of the plane, it’s a miracle I managed to hold my breakfast in.

“It’s funny to look back at all these calm photos, because the flight was anything but serene!”

Peter said desolate and abstract landscapes form the backbone of his photography and have long been something he has chased in his career.

He visited the salt flats in January with his wife and spent 10 days driving along the coastline in a campervan.

Created in the 1960s, the salt evaporation ponds are created by natural sand bars which let water naturally pool in shallow areas.

Pic by Peter Franc/Caters News

To snap the perfect shots Peter was strapped into his seat while the plane was tipped sideways above the evaporation ponds.

The plane he flew in was normally chartered for scenic flights and he was buckled in using just a standard airline seatbelt – leading to some hairy moments.

And he said the theme of human impact upon the earth was what attracted him to the desolate landscape.

Peter said: “Like many people, when Google Earth appeared, I spent hours – and still do – scouring the terrain, searching for interesting things, and I leaned more toward arid deserts and dramatic coastlines.

“I also work as an interface designer, so I suspect the salt flats sit perfectly in the middle of this desolate abstraction and my love for geometric shapes.

Pic by Peter Franc/Caters News

“I’ve definitely noticed a ‘human impact on the earth’ theme appearing more in what I choose to explore.

“There’s something about these straight lines, projected onto nature which I find fascinating.

“The patterns themselves are incredibly striking, but the colours are what stands out for me.

“The subtle differences between the drying salt – all the hues and saturation, ever-so-slightly different – sparkled a little as we flew overhead.

“Some moisture still remains in parts of the ponds during the salt drying process, creating this beautiful brush-stroke effect.

“I suspect the wind may also scour the surface, creating its own patterns.”