Thoughtfactory: pictures experiments journeys

brief working notes on various photographic projects

light #2

This is my second attempt in my little project of photographing light per se:

On this occasion I endeavoured to  simplifiy things down to the bare minimum.  I'm  at the western edge of Encounter Bay on Jetty Rd that runs alongside  Rosetta Head in the early morning. I'm precariously balanced on  some rocks at the very edge of the sea. It is early in the morning just after sunrise. The advantage of digital is its flexibility as working with a tripod and film would be much more difficult. 

light #1

This is my first attempt at photographing light per se that I mention in an earlier post.   I took advantage of the layer of cloud softening the early morning  light.

This  is  looking east across Encounter Bay  from Rosetta Head in Victor Harbor.     I did  try this approach with an old film camera -- eg., a   Rolleiflex TLR (colour negative) to see what happens but the film is still unprocessed.   

light + photography

I live on the coast of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia  and, as a result of my early morning poodlewalks along the coast,  I  I have become very aware of light,  and  especially the power and violence of light  in relation to photography.   My usual mode of photography is one of  being anxious to minimise or avoid the blinding or excessive light that results in blown highlights.  So I would normally photograph in soft or  low light situations (using both analog and digital cameras) to manage the  excessive and destructive  light.   

However, as a result of my experiences of the fluidity of  light along the coast during  this year  I have tentatively started to explore  light as the subject of photography. It is very tentative though: 

The traditional interpretation of light in our western culture contrasts  light with darkness, with light  standing for vision, reason, knowledge, truth and the real --eg.,as exemplified in  the Enlightenment movement.  On this interpretation light serves as a transparent medium in which truth and the objective world are revealed. Light unveils, clarifies, illuminates and makes the world around us perceptible and knowable. 


I have started to  explore the possibilities of seascapes  this last month or so using  large format cameras -- namely, 4x5 and 5x7-- and photographng in colour.   

The location from which I work  is Rosetta Head (the Bluff) and the subject is Encounter Bay in the early morning around sunrise.   I park  the Forester  in the top car park over looking Petrel Cove then walk around the northern side of the Bluff and then up the eastern face carrying the camera gear. The 5x4 and carbon tripod are no problem as they fit into a pack, but I struggle with the 5x7 Cambo and the Gitzo tripod. 

It is a slow process as it is  a hit and miss situation. I do not really know what the clouds,  light and atmosphere will be like  until I get there. All I know is that there are clouds over the sea and the  direction of the wind. 

the upgrade journey starts

I have finally begun the necessary upgrades  to my digital "darkroom" that is centred around independent content creator and  work-from-home.  The  current set-up has served me well for the last 7 years,  but it is finally  reaching its use-by date.  The software of the Epson V700 scanner has a flaw as it won't scan b+w negatives but  I cannot upgrade  it as the O/S of the Mac Pro is too old.

The upgrade  is going to involve  buying new computers around June 2022 when Apple release the  more professionally oriented MX Macs;  plus new processing software  for both still photography and video. The hardware plan is that a Mac mini plus  an  Eizo screen will replace the old Mac Pro (2009) that I have been using for my film photography. Then I will be able to  upgrade the Epson software.     

The first step  in the longish upgrade journey was to upgrade the operating system of the 27 inch  iMac (2015 Intel) that I use for my  digital  still photography and to download new post- processing software.  To my surprise I was still able to upgrade the macOS for the iMac  from  the macOS High Sierra that I had been using to the recently released  macOS Monterey. (I thought that the 2015 iMac would be too old to upgrade to the  latest macO/S). 

My fingers are crossed as I'm hoping that   the iMac has the capacity (processing power)  to be able to use process  the 4K videos from the recently acquired Panasonic SH1.  

possibilities, photographically speaking

During the last couple of months as the La Niña event  with its cooler, wetter conditions has been weakening I have been regularly exploring  the local Waitpinga bushland in the early morning. This is  after walking with Kayla  along a dusty back country road for 30 minutes or so.  The explorations are all 30 minutes in duration are they are designed to get to know the bushland and to find some suitable material ---possibilities-- for a large format photo session. 

This picture  of some roadside vegetation, just after sunrise,  was made on New Years day. After looking art  it for a couple of weeks I've decided that it is a possibility worth photographing  in the right light.  Light is crucial here.   Thankfully, it  is easy to find, even though it is  just as easy to walk past without noticing it --- which  I have done  on many an occasion, even when I have been looking out for it.       

The bushland  explorations have  taken  quite some time  to uncover the photographic possibilities. The scoping sessions using a digital camera are of  fragments of the bush -- a tree trunk here,  a branch there,  an  old log on the  ground there abouts. I then have to remember where these possibilities are  so that  I am able to  find them on the next exploration.  Sometimes it takes me a week or more to re-locate some of these  possibilities;  some because there are times when I can  never find them again.   


In the 1970s and 1980s  a Leica M4 rangefinder   with a 1970s 35mm Summicron lens  was my carry around  film  camera. It worked extremely well and I was very comfortable wandering the streets using the camera without a light meter.  Some say that  this was a classic M -- the apex of the minimal  analog, hand-crafted design. But it  was on the cusp of fading into oblivion in the face of a newer technology of the 35mm SLR from Japan (Nikon F) from the  early sixties. The latter was  a steady trend which increased even more during  the 1970s  and 1980s.    

I used  the M4 extensively for the Bowden Archives and Industrial Modernity project, especially  for the black and white photos in the Snapshots and Bowden sections. 

 I dropped the Leica M4 onto a concrete floor in the Queensland  Art Gallery in Brisbane's South Bank in the 1990s.  The rangefinder mechanism broke and  it could not be repaired in Australia. The camera body  was misplaced and then lost  for approximately  25 years.  The 35mm Summicron lens, which had sat in a cupboard  was eventually  used on a  digital Sony NEX-7  in  2014.  I bought  the Sony E mount so that  I could use the lens. 

Then the Leica M4 body was found around 2018. Unfortunately,   the rangefinder mechanism still could not be repaired in Australia  as there were no  second hand  rangefinder mechanisms.  Over the next couple of years I saved up some  money and I  sent the body  back to Leica Camera in Wetzlar, Germany in 202 to be repaired.  They put in a new rangefinder mechanism  and refurbished  the body. They did an excellent job --- the 1970s camera is like new.  

an old MA revisited

Art photography is often about  journeys along winding tracks and trails, some of which lead to no where.     

Sometimes these  journeys are  in the form of working on projects over a long period of time. Eventually an archive of photos builds up and we start to wonder what can we  do with these  photos over and above showing them in the the odd physical exhibition that is quickly forgotten and only exists on a CV.    Often  these projects are then put to one side, we forget about them, and we move onto new projects.

A classic example of this is my old MA (photos and dissertation) at Flinders University in South Australia in the late 1980s.

 The general idea  of the MA  was to explore  Romanticism's critical response to  industrial capitalism  and then to map this onto Australian modernity.  I worked on it for 2 years,   then had to put it aside (ie., dumped it) when I upgraded to do a PhD in continental philosophy at Flinders.  I  forgot about the MA and the photography  whilst working on the PhD in the 1990s  and when  I moved into the paid workforce in Canberra.  When I picked up photography again  in the first  decade of 21st century I would  sometimes take photos that were within the boundaries of the industrial MA project,  but I never thought about it as a project. 

The MA was something best forgotten. I'd failed. I was embarrassed by the failure.  I realized that  it had became normal  for  people to do MFA's,  complete them, and then  teach/lecture/research photography in a university,  such as RMIT. My old b+w photos just reminded me of my shame over my failure. I was now happy just making new photos like most other photographers.   

One day, when I was bored,  I started going through my old black and white archives.  I saw a body of work sitting there, asked a few friends  to look at it, and then  to help me quickly draft up a dummy photobook. I  showed the dummy  to a few people, then put it into the background. The dummy photobook was a bunch of photos of Bowden. However, that didn't really make sense of the old MA, since the text was missing, and it was the text that I had struggled with so long ago.   


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.