seascapes

One subject matter that I've explored again and again with a digital camera is the sea and sky. None have been successful enough for me to try venture forth using a large format camera with either colour or black and white film.  There's been one exception.

I don't know what the problem is. Picture after picture looks banal and boring.   I've even taken photos at different times of the day, but it malkes  little difference, 

It's frustrating, given that Hiroshi Sugimoto does such a good job of the  sea and its horizon, and I spend a lot of time by the ocean and so I am familar with its different atmospherics. Maybe I need to experiment with longer exposures to soften the horizon line and smooth out the action of the waves. 

roadside grasses

 I've been laid low with a torn ligament in my lower back and that ends the planned 8x10 photography for this weekend. So  I've been going through some of the roadside pictures on the computer that I took  last year during the summer.

One area   that I started in the roadside series was the summer grasses:

I'd just seen some of James Cant's  sunny and dry South Australian landscapes, and more specificially, his close-up images of local grasses and brush. These were highly textured, almost calligraphic, paintings. 

I had a quick look at my summer grasses  photography before, just after I'd scanned them,  but I didn't like the series  at all. I thought the idea was misguided. So I forgot about  them.

It's winter  now and everything looks different. So I can see the pictures I took then  at more of a distance.

Victor Harbor: on location

The three days at Victor Harbor have been frustrating in terms of photography.  I've been painting the lounge room  of  the   weekender whilst waiting for the conditions to be okay for a couple  large format  black and white pictures of roadside vegetation. One  was an early morning shoot, whilst the other  was  a late afternoon one.

It has been frustrating because when the southerly wind wasn't blowing  it has been raining early in the morning and late afternoon and then quite sunny during the day. Finally things fell into place late this afternoon after I finished painting a seciton of the wall-----there was little wind and it was overcast and fine. Ideal for the afternoon shoot that I'd lined up. 

I'd forgotten just how meditative 8x10  photography is. It takes a while to set the gear up  for the shoot,  and that means you really are in the moment.

I could feel the light changing as I tried to figure out how to use the new Pronto Professional  3 shutter for the Schneider 24mm lens that had recently been serviced. The  Prontor has no T position to hold the lens wide open  so you cancompose a representation of the objects in front of the camera. 

I finally figured out that I had to use a locked cable  release to do the same function as the T positon of holding the lens open using the  B position. The light was fading fast whilst I sorted things out.

an encounter with photographers

I've come down to Victor Harbor after a three week absence, which  included a small  trip to Melbourne.  There has been a lot of rain on the Fleurieu Peninsula recently, and it was difficult to access Kings Head this afternoon  due to  the landslides along  the Heysen Trail. It was very muddy.

On the way Ari and I met a couple of photographers walking the Heysen Trail on their  way to Kings Beach. They werre  taking lots of photographs.   One  photographer had   a big, fancy  Nikon DSLR with a zoom lens--he also had two standard poodles which I'd  previously seen --- whilst  the other had a Mamyia DM22 medium format camera , which he had bought second hand  from a guy in Japan for around $3000.   It was cheap because it had a 3 year  old 16 megapixel digital back.

These kind of cameras are  not readily  available in Adelaide second hand.

As  we walked along the trail towards  Kings Beach I mentioned the medium format guy that I once started out with an old  Mamiya RB67, but that I found it heavy and had swiched to Rolleiflexes.   He added that he also  had a Mamiya RZ33 in his studio but  that it was too heavy to take into the field. 

When I remarked about the cheapness of the digital back  he said  that it wasn't  necessary to go beyond a 33 megapixel digital back,  unless you were doing billboard posters. That was useful information for me.

What I gleaned from the brief encounter was that a  new digital medium format camera is now under $15,000,  and  it can be acquired for around $10,000 new. Suddenly a digital medium format camera  becomes feasible.

Ari and I  pushed on to our favourite  location at the foot of the Newland Cliffs to check out the tide and  the wind conditions for an early morning shoot. The two guys weren't interested in coming down to the rocky outcrop--it was in deep  shadow and the rocks  were very wet and slippery.

large format photography

I've been thinking about some subject matter for 8 x10 black and white work using the Cambo SC  monorail. These are difficult to use outside the studio, as they are bulky and heavy. Mine  has a large monorail that does not collapse,  and this  makes it difficult to carry in the field.   It is just not possible to carry this camera and the  heavy duty LInhof tripod very far.

Many large format photographers  address this problem by buying an 8x10 field camera that can be folded up in a back pack. I cannot afford a new one  of these,  and there are few second hand ones in Australia. I've chosen the  easy access by car option---that is, keep the monorail, drive to a spot,  unload the camera and then set it up. 

I did this picture of a Xanthorrhoea  (a yakka bush) as  part of a roadside scoping study that I was doing  with a 6x6 camera just before I left for the Tasmanian phototrip in March. The picture  works. Finally, I have something that I can work with and, being roadside vegetation,  it is accessible  by car. 

reconnecting

I've just returned to Encounter Studio in Victor Harbor, South Australia today after a month's phototrip in Tasmania. Suzanne is in Paris,  I'm looking after Ari, and the digitial suite has a new modem. The old one died during an electrical storm whilst we were in Tasmania.

I've linked up with an Adelaide-based  Art Photographers Facebook group that is quite lively and free wheeling and I've ordered a new digital camera to replace the old Sony  that was stolen in Melbourne last November. 

I've been  trying to reconnect with the  work that I was doing in Victor Harbor before the Tasmanian phototrip. To my dismay I've lost any sense of what I was working on or trying to do.  So I looked at the negatives that I had scanned just before I left for Tasmania:

I have to face it. I'm not sure that I had a particular project with the Victor Harbor book.  What was I trying to do with it I asked myself? I didn't have an answer. So what was I doing then? There has been a workflow but I've just been been taking snaps around several themes.

So where do I go from here?

Port Elliot

This part of Port Elliot is a much desired location. Big expensive architecturally designed housing is being built right on tops of the sandstone cliffs.  The houses have a commanding view of Encounter Bay. That's the way people like it. 

The sea around the rocks  is a  favourite spot for surfers and photographers. 

I'm more interested in the housing meets the coastline theme. I've had several goes at this, none of them satisfactory. It can only be done when the tide is very low. The sand is slowly going from the beach, exposing the rocks. 

coastal landscape

An earlier attempt shooting  black and white film, having  the negatives developed by Atkins Techniclour,  creating a digital file by  scanning the negative with an Epson V 700 scanner, then post-processing in Silver Efex Pro and Lightroom.  That's the standard workflow of Encounter Studios. It's a digital world.

I'm reluctant to do this kind of coastal landscape with film because I don't have any black and white filters  for the Rolleiflex SL66. It's a heritage camera--- circa 1980s--and I  really do need some  yellow filters  to highlight the clouds if I am to do this kind of landscape as distinct from rock abstracts.  The glass filters, however,  are really hard to come by.

I've been scanning most of the morning at Encounter Studio  and the results for the black and white negatives are not good. I  do not seem to be able to use the Silver Efex Pro software to recreate the effects of  the missing yellow filter in front of the lens.   So I am  left with very bland skies---just like the nineteenth century photographers. So I create a nineteenth century looking photo.

I appreciate that the Silver Efex Pro software is primnarily  for converting digital colour files into black and white.So  I'm going to have to do some research about post-processing software  for digital black and  white photography.

I know--its Photoshop---but I cannot afford  to buy it for both my Mac Pro computer in Adelaide and the iMac  in Victor Harbor. 

black and white

I've slowly returned to working in black and white and, in doing so, moving away from rock abstractions  to the scrub.  

It is easy to do when I'm using the  Rolleiflex SL66.  I can shoot in colour the scene in then switch to black and white  by  just changing the film back. It's slow black and white film--Ilford   PanF Plus 50 ---- that I use, as this camera is always used on a tripod.

The exposures are around generally 1-5 seconds as I take pictures in the early morning or just before  dusk  in the summer months. I was lucky this day as it stayed overcast for a couple of hours. So I raced back to the studio  and returned with the 8x10 Cambo monorail.  

I've always struggled with taking pictures of the Australian woodland, scrub or the bush. It is so messy and chaotic.  Then I saw Lee Friedlander's  pictures  of trees   from his flowers and trees series and saw how it could be done.

Here is an early attempt done just before  Xmas when I was down at Victor Harbor with Lariane  Foneseca,   a friend of Suzanne's who is a wonderful photographer. The melaleucas were on Rosetta Head, or The Bluff as the locals call it.

I   exposed a couple of  8x10 picture of these trees but I've yet to send the negatives to Blanco Negro  in Sydney to be processed. I'm inclined to return and do some pictures that are  closer up. 

roadside vegetation

I've started reading Jane Hylton's The Painted Coast: Views of the Fleurieu Peninsula in order to gain a sense of the visual history of this part of South Australia from the 1840s to the present.  The original native vegetation, which can be seen in the early water colours of G.F. Angas and H.P. Gill,  has long gone.

The region is now mostly farmland. The remnants  of the  native vegetation outside of the conservation parks can be found along the road side. This is now pretty thin.

I find the lack  of native vegetation and biodiversity rather depressing.