Perth photography workshops places are filling fast for the March 24th workshop. This workshop will be held on the banks of the Swan River at Point Walter. If you want an opportunity to see what large format photography can offer in realising your photographic vision, then this workshop is for you. We will be outdoors, using 4×5 cameras, you and a workshop colleague setting up a camera, viewing the composition, getting first hand experience and expert guidance. We are not just stuck in some boring classroom discussing theories and looking at an example. Only two spots left. So grab a spot before they run out! Details online.
During summertime I have to vary my darkroom routine to account for the heat. This means that I usually like to get to work early before the heat of the day sets in. With tasks like film processing it is important to be consistent, and that means keeping the temperature of the developer constant with the use of tempered water baths. It’s simple to do really, just add refrigerated water (during summer) to the room temperature tap water. You may also like to use a pre-rinse which can help adjust the temperature of developing tanks, film and reels prior to the actual development process. These days I just stick to a water bath and choosing a time of the day when you don’t have to fight too great a temperature differential between the room temperature and developer. Anyway, my point is that the window period for film development for me during summer is shortened, so it can take a while to catch up with a back log of film. So I was delighted when I viewed this morning’s processed black and white sheet films and rediscovered what I was photographing exactly one month ago during a trip to Augusta; in this case, bracken ferns. Developing films can be a bit of an adventure, you can never be absolutely sure what you have on film is what you see, and in this case I think I see more in the image than what I remember at the time on the ground glass.
We had just spent a pleasant morning buying some fruit , vegies and cheeses at the weekend markets in Dunedin New Zealand. Across the Railway Station where the markets are held we stopped and had a breakfast coffee at a little cafe. The four of us sat around a small table outside, sipping our coffees and discussing our purchases and the meal we were preparing. As we left the cafe I was suddenly struck by the curved form of the vacated chair and the diagonal shadow. Traveling with a 21/4 square Yashica 124G.
I love the simplicity of my Yashica 124G roll film camera. As a photographer you are often stuck with a difficult choice as to what camera or cameras you should take when traveling overseas on holidays. There is an expectation that you will be taking the latest digital offering with all the usual accoutrements. As I usually work with a 4×5 film camera and tripod there was a temptation to take this with me, after all, New Zealand has stunning landscapes.
However, I resisted. This was a holiday. Nor was this my first visit. The key here is the word holiday. I wasn’t on an assignment, just kicking back and relaxing with family, so why burden myself with photo gear for which I had no clear purpose to use? I wasn’t tramping in the back country and I certainly was not interested in doing too much of the tourist sight seeing thing (I did visit some galleries and art practices, which is always interesting).
I decided I would travel light, no tripod, one camera with a fixed lens. Limited choices. Keep it simple, keep it flexible and above all keep it fun. So I packed my 21/4 square Yashica 124G and 20 rolls of 120 Tmax 400. My subjects were largely urban images and portraits with a couple of landscapes thrown in.
The 21/4 square format yields a lovely full tonal range in black and white, and the camera wonderfully simple to operate and light enough to take everywhere. And when I came across an image that I really liked I knew I had a quality medium format negative to make a print with. This image was made in Matakana, a popular weekend getaway for Aucklanders. They make some nice wine there too.
Don’t overthink it. I have been playing around with my 35mm film camera lately, taking it with me on my daily travels. It’s an activity which I have found both challenging and rejuvenating. Unlike using the 4×5 where everything is slower, more contemplated and on a tripod, finding images on the move pushes me to the other extreme. I fumble as I try to control all the variables that rapidly present themselves, and then, in a leap of faith, I ignore this desire to control and let go. Fluid moments form and disintegrate before your eyes. There is so little time to process in your mind what you are seeing before another image appears. I think that’s part of the buzz I get after developing the film, finding those little surprises on the contact sheets. For a split second did I really see that?
Fire on the Landscape. Last week, with strong gusting winds, fire has once again touched the landscape in several locations around Perth. Whilst helicopter water bombers battled the severe fire at Roleystone, where tragically over 70 homes were lost, fixed wing aircraft dropped water on a blaze in the Canning Regional Park. Thanks to the firefighting crews, the fire was contained by the evening. Logic would have it that fire should travel in the same direction as the prevailing winds, but when I took a walk through the burnt area it became clear that the fire had not only jumped the river, but traveled backwards on itself, upwind against the gusting easterly winds, to ignite unexpected areas. That gives an idea of the ferocity of the winds created locally by the fire’s intensity. It’s a sobering reminder that fire continues to be a major force in shaping our landscape, evidenced by our highly flammable vegetation, the charred bark remains on mature trees and the fire dependent reproduction cycles of native plants. Has the reduced use of fire on the landscape over the past 200 years had the unintended consequence of increasing fire severity and therefore greater risk of destruction of homes and environment? This image was made in an area of the park which I regularly visit as part of a longer term photographic project exploring the seasonal changes and activity within the urbanised setting of the Canning River Regional Park, and was made several days after the fire.
Liquid Light: I was walking back to my campsite late one evening. The clear blue skies of the day had slipped away into a dull metal grey with a light but steady rain of an approaching cold front.
It had been a strenuous day’s walking on the south coast, but otherwise it was uneventful from an image making perspective. Although I usually find plenty of subject matter for my camera, on this day I just couldn’t get the photographic elements to come together in some manageable way. Not to mention that the coastal vegetation was full of ticks, for which I had to check myself continuously, and was one reason why I didn’t stand still long enough to set up my tripod!
Away from the onslaught of ticks I stood for a few minutes near the edge of high granite cliffs. Below me there was the loud sound of air under pressure being rapidly released, punctuated by a spout of water vapour, followed by a long inhaling breath. A few seconds later a humpback whale swam leisurely by, just a few metres out from the cliff’s edge. As it passed underneath me I watched it follow the cliff line and then disappear.
Braving the ticks, I made my way across the low bush towards a four wheel drive track used by local fisherman. The rain, now pooling along the track, caught my attention as it reflected the glow of the evening sky. It was if the light was seeping out of the ground. I quickly set up my camera and made the exposure, the light fading rapidly, before a deluge of rain hit.
That night in my tent I heard the whales calling to each other as they swam into the bay.
Jarrah tree blossoms Urban Landscape Perth Polaroid Type 55. I often rise early before sunrise. I like to think its because I am a dedicated landscape photographer, but truth is this: the cat has me trained so well to let her out at that time in the morning it has become a habit. When I am at home the morning starts with a brewed cup of coffee. As the predawn light softly filters through the kitchen window I survey the sky for a whisp of cloud or any other clues as to what the day is bringing. At this time of year, Perth summer weather can be very predictable, just like in Groundhogs Day. Today was no different, the cloudless grey sky was slowly turning blue and a gentle but persistent easterly breeze was coming off the scarp, just like yesterday.
I went into the backyard and stood under the jarrah and marri trees with my cup of coffee. Above me in the trees I could hear the industrious sound of insects buzzing. Looking up, the jarrah tree was heavy with tiny yellow blossoms, which stood out in the soft predawn light. With the extent of its flowering I wondered why I had not noticed earlier? During the day when the sun is blazing in the cloudless summers skies, these soft yellow flowers become almost invisible, lost amongst the bright light and glare.
I got out the 4×5, and focused in tight on the tiny flowers and a cluster of seed pods. The magnification was life size on the film and with every breath of wind the pods and flowers jumped in and out of my ground glass viewing frame. Working at this magnification depth of focus is very shallow and I used some back tilt on the camera to help bring the foreground seed pods into the plane of focus. For just a moment the breeze stopped. In a rush I placed a single sheet of Polaroid Type 55 PN film into the camera back, set the shutter for 1/2 second at f8. Both these settings were a compromise to sharpness, but it was all I could get. To make matters worse I could hear the leaves in the tops of the trees rustle in the breeze as I pressed the cable release to make the exposure.
I like to process my Polaroid in the darkroom, preserving the negative and clearing it in sodium sulphite solution whilst in complete darkness. Most my Polaroid prints are overexposed as my aim is to obtain the negative, which I expose at the slower 32ISO rather than the recommended print speed of 50ISO.
The first rays of sunlight began hitting the blossoms, the sky turning a bright pale blue. It was going to be a fine summer’s day in Perth. What remained of my coffee had gone cold, but at least I had awakened my senses as to what was happening in my own backyard and saw something anew. Maybe it wasn’t going to be another Groundhogs day after all?
Be tenacious. These wind swept branches are an example of how tenacious life really is, even in adverse situations. With its roots wedged between massive granite boulders, the sheer force exerted by millions of minuscule living cells is sufficient, over a long period of time, to lift and displace these rocks just enough to allow this tree to grow. And given its size it has successfully adapted and overcome environmental extremes such as no soil, prevailing winds (sometimes at gale force), salt spray, diminishing rainfall and intense sun exposure.
I can only guess how old it is, but this is one of a few larger specimens that sprawl out for several metres over the boulders at Cape Naturaliste.
IRIS Awards Carlo Margaret River Bronica 645 Kodak Tri-X. Back in 1987, I started a personal photographic project: photographing some of my family members and relatives around Margaret River. I didn’t set out with any particular plan such as a start and finish date, or a wish list of images, as perhaps you would for a commercial project. It simply took shape as I visited the region, usually several times per year. It depended solely on what opportunities presented themselves, at the time of those visits, for photography. Naturally, at some point during my visit I would ask if they would mind if I made some photographs whilst we talked. In some instances, there was only ever one photographic session, the confluence of opportunities and circumstances never re-emerging. Luckily in those situations I got what I thought was a pleasing image, so mission accomplished.
When I first photographed Carlo, above, he was already 83 years of age. I would often find him out in the paddocks, fossicking around for wood burls or looking for field mushrooms when in season. Before his passing, at nearly 90 years of age, I had the pleasure of making several memorable images.
Most times I used my 4×5 field camera for the portraits, even leaving 4×5 Polaroid prints with my subjects after my visit, which was always a nice way to say thank you. Other times I used my 645 medium format camera, such as in the image above, which was easier to handle in rapidly changing circumstances. I used Kodak Tri X for both roll and sheet film, metering was all hand held, both film and prints hand processed by me.
I entered this image in the recent Perth Centre of Photography 2010 IRIS Awards, a national photographic portrait prize, some months back, and then actually forgot all about it. Unfortunately it didn’t make the judges’ selection for the final exhibition, but it did apparently make it through as one of about 30 semi-finalist images, according to a PCP flicker posting. How many of these made the final show I don’t know.
I only became aware of the above posting quite by accident, I certainly wasn’t contacted by PCP. Whilst on the subject of the Perth Centre of Photography, isn’t it time some of the digital savvy members amongst the PCP brought the website up to a professional standard? These days it’s not hard, difficult or expensive. The current PCP website has been under construction for far too long, which is farcical if they are a “centre of photography” running “national” awards. Given that Perth Centre of Photography receives funding from WA’s Department of Arts & Culture to run two national awards (IRIS and CLIP Awards), it would be nice to see an up to date and informative web site about the awards’ results, both past and present. It certainly would be a more inclusive way, for people outside of Perth of staying informed of the results, after all it’s meant to be a national award.