Thoughtfactory’s image-text blog

an experimental image-text blog based in the southern Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia

explorations

In a recent  post on his art blog  the art historian Sasha Grishin makes a useful distinction between a landscape artist and an  environmental artist. Grishin is writing about an exhibition featuring the landscape work of John Wolseley, Mulkuṉ Wirrpanda and Mary Tonkin.

He  says  that:

"The basic distinction between a landscape artist, in the old-fashioned understanding, and an environmental artist, is that a landscape artist stands in front of something to capture, convey or depict it, while an environmental artist is part of the landscape or environment and seeks to convey it, its rhythms and patterns, from the inside."

A 2017 collaboration between Wolseley and Mulkan Wirpanda is here.  

I slow walk in nature and I make photos of minutae:

The question is:  how can photography explore  how we dwell and move within landscape or country? How can photography relate the minutiae of the natural world -ie., shell, feather, seaweed - to the abstract dimensions of the earth's dynamic systems?

What puzzles me as  I slow walk in the littoral zone on the  poodlewalks  and often photograph the minutiae  in this coastal world  is  how do I relate this minutiae  to the earth's dynamic systems in a photographic way?

old tripods

I recently went on a field trip to Lorne and the Great Otway National Park in Victoria with the Melbourne based  large format photographers. Like the previous visit, it was a short trip - we ( Suzanne, myself and the standard poodles)  only spent  a few days staying at an Airbnb at Aireys Inlet.  Accommodation along the coast of the Great Ocean Road was extremely hard to find.  It appears that everybody is travelling around Australia with the national  borders closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Lorne itself was packed. There were people everywhere including  at Erskine Falls.   

I hit my physical  limits carrying my Gitzo aluminium tripod and Linhof 5x4 Technika IV up a series of steps  to  Swallow Cave at the top of the Sheoak waterfall. It was the tripod that did it: -- the Gitzo  is heavy and unwieldy and it hurt my neck and back when strung across my shoulders.  I really struggled.   It is the lightest tripod that I own, but I  had to take rests to ease the strain on my neck and back.    

Consequently, the next day when I walked along a  forest path from the Blanket Leaf Picnic Area to the Cora Lynn Cascades and back I knew I could not carry the  Gitzo aluminium tripod and Linhof 5x4 Technika IV; even though it  was just a couple of kilometres on a moderate grade walk to the Cascades.   

 I'm just going for a walk in the forest I told myself. I'm going to enjoy myself in the Otways.  To hell with lugging heavy gear.  I saw  this part of the creek on the way down to the Cascades. It  was  in a very dark corner, it was raining,  and so it was  a very low light situation. 

I just carried a Sony A7 R111 digital camera with me. It  works well handheld in low light. The Cascades themselves were nothing much so I photographed this section of the  creek on the way back to the picnic ground.  It was no longer raining.   

beyond social media?

 Hamish McKenzie, in  addressing the attention economy  on the Substack blog, refers back to the old (pre-social media) internet and blogging. This is internet history. That was then. We now live and work in the attention economy  with  its environment of perpetual digital distraction  where  companies  (eg., Facebook and Google) are targeting our attention to make money. Their business model is  the monetisation of attention to  passively consume through governing modes of participation  within the system. Facebook's  software has the capacity to  produce and instantiate modes of attention as well as to track and process  user data across the web. This is an infrastructure that  works invisibly in the background to shape forms of sociality.   

What has emerged is a techno-culture of perpetual distraction--all those pings, pop-ups, notifications  that cause us to be perpetually distracted.  Rather than democratising the public sphere, social media replaces it with a global Freudian id, in which everyone’s darkest impulses collide, and rational  debate becomes difficult.

So we need to critically think about the  role of Facebook's network of friends in our lives,  how it affects our mental capacities and predicts our future interests.   

So how might we critically engage? 

McKenzie  say that  Substack,  which  is an independent publishing platform  based on a subscription model,  is a place where writers are rewarded not for doing the things that capture attention but instead for doing the things that respect readers’ trust. Substack emerged as a digital publishing platform from a  frustration with:

"how the quality of discussion has been degraded on social media. We are dumber on social media than we are in real life. We are less forgiving, less willing to listen and understand, and more prone to dismiss and then torch our ideological opponents. That, after all, is how we earn internet points....the incentives that underpin today’s dominant internet media businesses have led to tribalism and groupthink ... With an ad-based business model you have to play for scale, which isn’t always conducive to good discourse. To make any meaningful money in such a model, media producers have to generate millions of ad impressions." 

He says that the old internet internet felt like a less hostile place then, and there were fewer heat-seeking algorithms that sought to transmute attention into gold. Substack, as a counter force to social media  he adds,   frequently references that blogging era,  and  it seeks to recapture some of what made it special.

GPS coordinates/innovation/future thinking

I have just realized that by using Latitude and Longitude through  Google Earth I am able to give  a far more  accurate way of identifying  the location of my photos,  than just saying 'the rocky coastline just west of Petrel Cove' in South Australia.  

An example of a recent photo:--Lat:-35.5932 Lon:138.5978

GPS coordinates have also helped me to find a section of granite rocks along the coast of Deep Creek Conservation Park that I've  wanted to walk and explore. I knew about them in a casual way,   but I could not  find their location  until I came   across a latitude reference to their location near Deep Creek Beach.  I was interested because I wanted to continue to explore the relationship between  photographic abstractions and  nature whilst avoiding  the genre of  the landscape. 

It will be a workout walking to and from the coast  carrying 5x4 equipment. As the walk is around  6 hours so it will become  part of  the training for the forthcoming camel trek from Blinman to Lake Frome  in South Australia in May. 

Archives: leaves, bark, light

This picture of  leaves, bark, and light is from the archives --late December 2018. The leaves and bark were  in the  local  reserve  just across the road  from my studio in Encounter Bay.  

This macro image was made with my  old mirrorless  Sony NEX-7 digital camera which had been outfitted with  a Voigtlander close up adapter and an old  35mm Leica M lens. The combination had only been put together a  few weeks earlier.  My fingers were crossed: would it work smoothly? Would it allow me to forget the tech and concentrate on making photos, just as I could with a Leica M  film camera?  

Though the Sony NEX-7  is very basic and old tech -- it is not full frame and it is not good in low light --- it still functions well within these limitations. This is one way to keep an old digital camera (circa 2011) going--as a second walk around camera to the camera that replaced it --a mirrorless Sony A7 R111, a  Novoflex adaptor and a 35mm  Leica M lens.   

seascapes

I have been using the few occasions when  I go up Rosetta Head on an early morning Sunday poodlewalk with Kayla to photograph seascapes. That is what you see: the southern ocean. 

I am discovering that my  emphasis is on the clouds rather than the sea: 

I have tried a different compositional approach  ---eg., one that is more evenly balanced between cloud and sea and neither dominate the other. 

However,  I find the latter  composition more bland and  boring. Boring, tired, done is my  immediate response. And they don't look like abstractions. But they promise possibilities. 

Edgelands-2

There is not much in the way  of an edgeland  in the landscape  around the coastal township of Victor Harbor.  The suburban edge of the town backs onto farming properties. It is a similar situation with the other townships in the southern Fleurieu Peninsula.  So it  is difficult to continue working on this long term project. 

However, the  old Victor Harbor Council's dump, which  has been closed down for some time,   has become an edgeland on the Waitpinga outskirts of the township. It is a home for rabbits and occasionally cattle wander through.  I have previously photographed here.  

experiments #2

The fuzzy experiments continue. This time it is Petrel Cove on a stormy afternoon: 

I was sitting in the car in the Petrel Cove car park waiting for the squall  to pass  before I went for an afternoon  poodlewalk with Maleko.  I was wondering if I could achieve layers and textures in the photo with everything out of focus.  

at Kapunda with Lavender Trail friends

As mentioned in this blog  post  in the Eye on the Mallee website  I spent several days in mid-August at Kapunda with Suzanne's Lavender Trail friends. Whilst they walked the trail  around the Kapunda region  in the mid-north each day  I photographed. I actually spend more time photographing in,  and around,  Kapunda than  I did in the South Australian mallee. Well,  I split my time between the two different regions. 

This picture is of the Anglican church in Kapunda. It was designed by Edmund Wright,  and built around 1857-8: 

Kapunda was a copper mining town in the mid-nineteenth century until  1879 and the revenue from copper  saved South Australia from bankruptcy. The railway from Gawler, which  was established in 1860 to  service the copper mining, was the the first extension of the line from Adelaide to Gawler.  The extension continued through Eudunda then across the Murray Mallee plains adjacent to what is now the Thiele Highway to Morgan on the River Murray to  capture the  up-stream paddle steamer trade.  

fuzzy seascapes

I ventured up Rosetta Head one cloudy morning recently  --the 3rd of August. I decided  not to carry my film cameras  from the Petrel Cove carpark as I did not know what an out of focus pre-sunrise grey seascape would look like photographically.  

This is the first experiment. I was  looking east over Encounter Bay towards Goolwa and the Coorong whilst I was making  my way to the top of  Rosetta Head:   

Kayla had gone ahead to join Maleko and Suzanne, who was doing her exercises.