a note on photographing at Mt Arapiles

I recently spent  a weekend photographing at Mt Arapiles with a group of  large  format, film based  landscape   photographers from Melbourne, who come together under  the  Friends of  Photography Group (FoFG).  I  hadn't meet any of the group previously,  and I didn't know much  about who they were prior to this weekend. Since  few of them have their own websites I knew very little about their photography,  apart from what I'd seen on the insightful  and informative  View Camera Australia blog.    

 I don't consider myself  a wilderness photographer,  and unlike the FOPG photographers,  I do not  develop my (colour)  negatives or make fine prints from my  b+w  negatives in a  wet darkroom.  I did, however,  want to link up with some other large format photographers in Australia   who were both serious about their craft  and whose  landscape photography was  location based. FoFG's excursion to the Mt Arapiles-Tooan State Park  was my opportunity,  since  it was closer to Adelaide  than some of FoFG's  favourite  locations  in eastern Victoria. 

There were about 14 of the FoFG who made it to the Mt Arapiles weekend.  Like myself,  several of them camped at the Centenary Park campground,  amongst the various groups of the dedicated and serious rock climbers.   The group was open, supportive, knowledgeable  and generous. I was impressed by a  couple  of the FoFG  using 11 x 14 cameras (both field and pinhole)  as I  struggle to  handle an 8x10.  

 I guess that some of the photography that I  make  along the coast of the  southern Fleurieu Peninsula  would fall within the landscape photography category--eg., the photographs of  the rocks, trees and coastline that emerge from my  various poodlewalks.  So I do have a foot in this kind of landscape photography,  without considering it to be within the tradition of  wilderness  photography.   

near Palmer, eastern Mt Lofty Ranges

As mentioned in this  post on the Mallee Routes blog my stay at  the 5 day camp at Tanunda with the Lavender Trail walking friends allowed me to travel across, and photograph in,   the eastern Mt Lofty Ranges, the Murraylands and the Murray Mallee. 

The  image below was made on the Randall Rd (B35)  in the Mt Lofty Ranges  near Palmer in the eastern Mt Lofty Ranges.   I was making  my way down the Ranges  to the Murraylands  to  photograph around  the small towns of Cambrai and Sedan,  which  were connected by a railway line in the early 20th century.   

The  drive through the eastern Mt Lofty Ranges  was reconnecting with my past. I had been here before in the 1980s. I do recall jumping the  fences  then.  Even though I had a bit of a wander around I couldn't find the  specific areas that I'd photographed in.  Too much has changed in the 30-35 or so years.  

Overland Corner Reserve

 I spent a couple of days swagging  in  the  Overland Corner Reserve  during my  repeat   Mallee Routes photo trip to Copeville and Galga. I stayed  there after the Copeville and Lake Bonney (Nookamka Lakephoto sessions  to try and track  the  Overland Stock Route  (from New South Wales) after it left the township of  Barmera and made  its way around the northern part of Lake Bonney to Morgan.  

The picture below was made for the absent history section of  the forthcoming Mallee Routes exhibition at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery.  Its location is near the Overland cemetery on the hill that overlooks the floodplain of the Overland Corner Reserve. This floodplain   would have formed part of the Overland Stock Route in the 1840s, prior to it going around the Nor-West Bend of the River Murray at Morgan, then down  to Adelaide.   

The floodplain of the Overland Corner Reserve  is in poor ecological health ---it is  even in a  worse condition than  the Loch Luna Game Reserve, which  lies between Lake Bonney and the Overland Corner Reserve. I presume that this region  in the 19th century was ephemeral --wet and dry depending on the River Murray flooding. With the  construction of the Weir and Lock 3 in  the mid 1920s,  to create storage  for irrigated agriculture,   Lake Bonney became permanently inundated. That meant  both the Game Reserve and Overland Corner floodplain received  very little, if any  flood water.  

walking along back country roads

This year during  the early winter  (ie ., June)  I  shifted from photographing in  the littoral zone   to photographing along  the back country roads in the local Waitpinga region. This scoping image of two trees on Pitkin Rd, which was  made whilst I was on an afternoon  poodlewalk, is an example of what I have been tentatively exploring: 

During June I scoped,  then sifted, the images  around Waitpinga into several    photographic possibilities.  Some actually  looked okay and worth  re-photographing with my film cameras.  I   slowly started to re-photograph with my medium format film cameras (a Rolleiflex SL66 and a Linhof Technika 70 with 6x7 and 6x9 film backs) --in both colour and black and white. One step at a time. 

at Claypans in the Murray Mallee

I recently made a small roadtrip  in the early winter to the Murray Mallee of South Australia to make some photos for the Mallee Routes project.  The blurry  plan was to follow up on  what I had briefly scoped with a digital camera on a previous trip.  

In the late afternoon on  the first day I  used the 5x4  Sinar f1 (with a  Schneider-Kreuznach 75mm Super Angulon)  to photograph an old, run down   caravan standing  amidst the  ruins  of a limestone  cottage in  Copeville. After the  photosession   I set up an overnight  camp in a nearby limestone quarry, as my plan was  to photograph a church at Claypans the following  morning.  

I  then discovered that I'd forgotten to pack my sleeping bag  to put inside my  swag. How in the hell could I forget to pack my sleeping bag? It was winter and the temperatures drop in the Mallee at night-- down to 2 degrees centigrade.  Despite the red wine  it was a dam cold night sleeping in  my clothes inside the swag.  Never again. Suzanne, my  better half, who is an experienced  bushwalker, says that I need to make a list of what I need to pack,  rather than throwing things together at the last minute,  as is my custom.    

As can be seen from this  early am photo  of the landscape at Copeville  from the top of the limestone quarry, the next morning  dawned with some extensive  cloud cover, so things were looking promising for the Claypan photo session.  late119th/ I wandered around the quarry photographing (6x6 film and digital),  had breakfast in the sun, packed up the camp,  then set off for Claypans in the Subaru Outback.  

I wanted to photograph the church at Claypans in  b+w in the open shadow and  in flat light for  the absent history section of the upcoming 2019 Mallee Routes exhibition in December  at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery. My plan was  to use the 8x10 Cambo   to make  the image  look like a late 19th/early 20th century views photos,  and to use  the Sinar f1 to situate the church  firmly within the Mallee's agricultural  landscape.    

photographing in the winter

Now that the  5x4 Sinar is finally  up and running I have started to think about  doing some  black and white photography in the winter.  Given the long exposures required in low light,  it  would be  tripod based work  that can only be realistically  done in specific conditions--basically no rain or showers  and with little coastal wind.  

This black and white version  of some coastal granite formation in the early morning light  is one possibility.   I  had scoped these rocks  with the Sony a7 R111 digital camera, just before the first winter storm hit the coast of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula.  It was a very pleasant late autumn morning. 

This granite formation  in the winter light would be suitable  for  the Sinar f1 and the Schneider-Kreuznach 75m Super Angulon lens (multicoated). I could easily carry the camera gear and the  carbon fibre tripod  over my shoulder to this location, which  is just  west of Deps Beach.   I could walk there before sunrise with Kayla  on a poodlewalk, set up the camera,  and  then wait for the winter sun  to rise over Rosetta Head and  lighten up the granite. 

Sinar: 5x4 gear

After several years  I have finally managed to put together a Sinar 5x4 system through buying various second hand gear  in bits and pieces as they became available at Photon Photography's eBay store and when I had some spare cash.   It is possible  to do this  because Sinar's  standardized components were carefully designed to form a highly versatile,  modular camera system. 

I had started off acquiring a  5x4 Sinar f1  several years ago from Alex Garde in Tasmania, who was moving up to 11x14 for his wet plate photography, as I  wanted  do some black and white photography.  The f1 came with  a standard bellows,  two lenses (150mm normal and 75mm wide-angle), a rail clamp,  a standard rail,  and  a Sinar tripod head. In order to use the  Schneider-Kreuznach  Super-Angulon 75mm f5.6  I had to acquire a wide angle bellows, a lens hood and a yellow filter.   I then  bought  a Sirui R 4123X carbon fibre tripod. All I  need now is a case to transport  it to a location in the field. One is on hold  for me at a Hindmarsh  disposal store in Adelaide.

The f1 is a monorail that is designed to  be used  for  film photography outside the studio. The f stands for field.  It  is a  basic,   lo fi,   light weight 5x4 system--its really a light-tight box--- that  can be easily carried in the field.  My f1 is  without either a  light-metering back or the digital lenses. I  have no need as I do the metering  with a hand held meter,  and I manually adjust the aperture and the length of exposure.  It is the latter  f3 Sinar that  is a digital/analog model,  which  supports a variety of Sinar digital lenses and digital backs.

 I have no interest in using a digital back on a view camera in the field. Mine is a hybrid workflow,  meaning  that everything from the camera to the developing of negatives is  analog, whilst  the final processing, including the print is within the digital workflow. 

quartz and granite

I have been planning to photograph  this low level rock formation  for some time now.  I envisioned pictures  in both in colour made with a medium format film camera  (Rolleiflex SL66) and in black and white  made with a 5x4 Sinar monorail. Though the  granite/quartz rock formation  is  just past the western edge of Deps Beach,   and though it is quite accessible,  I keep on putting the photo session off.

I'm not sure why the procrastination,   as I pass this  location on one of my normal  early  morning poodlewalks with Kayla.   Making the photo  does require  me to use a  tripod with spreadable legs  so that it can  lie flat on the ground,  and that does mean carrying a heavy and bulky  Linhof tripod. That's a hassle. 

mix and match

This image of quartz and seaweed is in the littoral zone  of  the southern coast of  the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia. This is where I now live,  and the coast is a part of my dally walks in all kinds of weather.  I always take a camera  with me on these walks.

 The image  is a  handheld macro photo made whilst I was on an early morning poodlewalk with Kayla. The picture  was made just before I went on the Wentworth photocamp for the Mallee Routes project, and it was  before the autumn rains came and the weather turned cold.  

Most of the subject matter along this  coast is  in the detail rather  the broad or panoramic landscape or seascape  views. From what I can see the latter is  what most of the  photographers  visiting the coast tend to concentrate on.  I had been  frustrated in the past because  I  didn't have equipment  to  do this kind of close-up work whilst on the daily walks. I had  a tripod and a medium format film camera and  it  was cumbersome  to carry,  and difficult to use.  So  much of the detail is situated in difficult spots that make the use of a tripod impractical. So I used the iPhone. 

A critical climate aesthetics

Over the last decade, scientists and humanists have renamed our current geological era the “Anthropocene” in recognition of the profound impact that human activities have had upon the earth’s crust and atmosphere. The move would equate humanity with geological forces like glaciers, volcanoes, and meteors and it suggests that a sharp division between nature and culture or technology is no longer tenable.We are looking what the French historian Ferdinand Braudel  called the  longue duree.

Dr. Joelle Gergis' The Sunburnt Country: The History and Future of Climate Change in Australia' argues that the scientific evidence shows that Australia is now starting to move out of the realm of natural variability that we've  seen in the recent geologic past. The Australasian region is warming and our fingerprints are all over that signal. All of our weather and climate is now occurring on the background of a warming planet. The challenge is to transform our society into a sustainable one  on the planet,  rather than a destructive one that is making our planet quite unsafe. 

The lower Darling River in 2019:

The growing sense of urgency surrounding climate change  has generated a dialogue among artists, critics and theorisers  reading the role of art in this contemporary crisis.The Cape Farewell project and the Canary Project are  well known examples.  The Art + Climate Change festival  is an Australian example.