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.   

Mallee Routes Murtoa photoshoot

I was so pleased with myself for this section of the  recent  Hopetoun phototrip  for the Mallee Routes project. I  had timed the photoshoot at Murtoa, in the Wimmera Mallee  perfectly.  

The light was right. So were the clouds. The Cambo 5x7 monorail was set up properly.  I took a behind the camera snap with the Sony NEX-7 to record the moment, then loaded the double dark film holders.

The spring in the camera back  broke as I was loading the double dark film holders. I took some photos but there was no pressure holding the film holder tight against the camera body. So there would be light leaks everywhere.

Carina photoshoot

Prior to going to meet Gilbert and Eric at Hopetoun in the Wimmera-Mallee  to make some more  images for the Mallee Routes project  I camped at Murrayville to photo some of the  nearby  silos.  There were a couple of days of overcast conditions in the Mallee and I wanted to take advantage of these conditions  to make some 8x10 black and white photos.

This is the silo at Carina, which is just south of Murrayville:

This is going to be a slow project.  As it is turning out it requires several hours travelling time,  overcast conditions, camping  and a few pictures in the morning and the evening at the most.  Then the weather changes back to the usual  blue sky and bright sunshine and I pack up  the photoshoot  until the next time. 

in the Victorian Mallee

I spent 4 days camped at  the Ouyen caravan park with Gilbert Roe  so that I could photograph some of the  grain silos in and around Ouyen  on the Mallee Highway with my large format cameras.   I managed to photography 5 silos--those from Ouyen to Linga--using a 5x7 monorail (for colour)  and an 8x10 monorail (for black and white).   

The next stage in the silo project is to camp at Murrayville so that I can  photograph the silos in and around that hamlet. I prefer overcast conditions  for this kind of photograph the silos, which makes life difficult,  as such  days are few and far between in the Mallee.  It's normally bright, sunny and cloudless. 

I also took the opportunity to start to explore  with my digital camera the countryside of  the Victorian Mallee, which is still economically based around dryland farming and large cereal farms. Even in  late autumn the northern Mallee was dry, hot  and dusty  with dust storms.  The agricultural landscapes  look as if it has extended periods of dryness that cannot simply be put down to intermittent drought. That dryness causes hardship to the local communities, the unravelling of the social  fabric, and the steady decline of the population in the towns and hamlets with their derelict houses and abandoned tennis courts.  

in Melbourne

I was able to spend  5 days in Melbourne last week. The last time I was in Melbourne on a photo trip was  2 years  ago and I was photographing under the South Eastern freeway.  

The time was  divided  between  a scanning tutorial at Photonet on Wednesday and Thursday  for my (5x7 colour  and 8x10 black and white negatives) and  some photoshoots.  One on my own at Footscray on Tuesday,  and the second  one at Merri Creek in the Clifton Hill/Northcote area with Stuart Murdoch  late Thursday afternoon after he'd finished work at the Northern College of Art and Technology in Preston.    

As I was travelling light  on cheap Qantas flights (2 hand held cameras)  the Thursday photoshoot with Stuart was a scoping exercise  for a future 5x4 photoshoot. Stuart had photographed in the area 20 years ago and he was reconnecting with that body of work. 

I was walking around looking for  some suitable locations and times.  After walking around a bit in the drizzle we found something to work with near Rushell Reserve  in North Fitzroy looking towards  an old railway bridge: 

It is an edge land shoot.  What attracted both of us is the incongruity between nature and industry--Merri  Creek was the site of heavy industrial use throughout much of the 20th century, being home to quarries and landfills,  and a drain  for the waste runoff from neighbouring factories.  The best time is in the  late afternoon during  the  winter months.