Many people will know the work of Ern Mainka. His photography was hugely popular amongst nature enthusiasts, and I must have seen his images in hundreds of places over the years.
Apart from capturing our wild places so well, Ern played a significant role in raising awareness about the many threats posed to these places. Many of these landscapes are now protected, and Ern played a big part in many of these victories.
In his obituary for Ern, photographer David Tatnall had this to say:
Ern learned his skill as a photographer whilst working for Telecom (before it became Telstra) and his overriding love of the natural world lead to him taking a redundancy package in the mid 1980’s to devote his time and energy to photographing nature. At that time the forests of Victoria’s East Gippsland were the site of an intense battle for their preservation and protection from clearfell logging and woodchipping. Ern’s photographs played an important part in saving these forests. His photographs were an example of the power of the photographic image.
Ern’s photographs also played an important role in the campaigns for the protection of the Mallee, Victorian Alps, Otway and Central Highlands forests and Murray River Red Gums.
Ern went to enormous lengths to get photographs; he was the first person to photograph Errinundra Plateau’s First Creek Falls. His day and night photographs of a Ghost Fungus (Omphalotus nidiformis) in the Rodger River involved him making one exposure of the fungus in daylight and without moving the camera exposing another piece of film during the night for eight hours while he sat in a sleeping bag nearby to ensure Tiger Quolls or Possums didn’t knock the camera over. Those photographs were published in the Victorian National Parks Association Calendar in 1986.
You can read all of David’s obituary here on the Environment East Gippsland website.
His passing really is a great loss.