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.   

Mt Arapiles  was new territory for me as I hadn't been there before. I didn't even know that it was regarded as Victoria's climbing Mecca, the premier destination of traditional climbing in Australia until I started doing some online research.  This was my first time with FoPG  and  I had no idea   how they  photographed as a group whilst they were on location.  Did they do their own thing or did they walk to specific locations together? 

 I didn't have the confidence to walk around the area with the Linhof 5x4,  the  pack and tripod, which I presume is what  the  FoPG members  did. So  I used my poodlewalk routines  as a stepping stone to get started:  I wandered off on my own in the morning,   walked around looking  for suitable subjects,  scoped them with a digital camera,  checked out the light (morning or afternoon photo session),   then I came back and photographed in either colour or  black and white hoping that the weather conditions  were suitable.  

As I just didn't know where to begin at Mt Arapiles  I started at Mitre Rock, which is an isolated outcrop to the north of Mt Arapiles.   It wasn't as over powering as  Mt Arapiles itself  and I could manage  Mitre Rock since   I was able to easily  walk around it  looking for possible subject matter. 

 On the Saturday morning  at Mitre Rock   I was able  to find shelter from the  gale force,  south-westerly wind and  the  squalls that swept across the western Wimmera landscape. Whilst waiting for the squalls to easer I dove  up to the summit of Mt Arapiles at lunch time, then      returned  to Mitre Rock  on  Saturday afternoon for more explorations. 

I was able to make 2  5x4 colour photographs of the  above two subjects that day. All in all, given the weather,  it was a pretty fruitful day for me. Of course, there is  my usual lag time to have the colour negatives developed by Atkins Photo Lab in Adelaide,  then  scanned, and posted on a blog.   

In looking back on my brief experience at Mt Arapiles I can see that it took me a while to  photographically orientate myself, given the awesome power and seductive presence of the Romantic sublime. After looking through the digital files from the trip on my computer screen I now have  a couple of   spots to go to with the Linhof 5x4 the next time I visit Mt Arapiles. This would probably  be a side-trip when I go to the Wimmera for the Mallee Routes project.