architecture, black + white, film, roadtrip, South Australia

a photocamp at Wallaroo

August 12, 2017

The picture below of silos at Wallaroo on the north-west of York Peninsula in South Australia was made  whilst on my first photocamp with Gilbert Roe  in 2016. I had realised that day trips into the Mallee would not work  for  the Mallee Routes project   since I photograph in the early morning or late afternoon light. So  for the road trips to work  I needed to  camp in a specific location and work from there for several days. I need to get to know the area, the subject matter and the lighting conditions.

Wallaroo was a test run to check out our  old camping equipment that we hadn’t  used since the 1990s. I needed  to see what still worked,  what  needed to be replaced  to make a  photo camp successful, and to judge whether or not I was still up for camping.  Much to my surprise, the camp  at Wallaroo worked a treat, and  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

silo, Wallaroo, York Peninsula

My various experiences  at the subsequent  photo camps at Ouyen, Hopetoun, Loxton and Hopetoun  have  resulted in the acquisition of a new tent, a new stove and  a  portable fridge. The battery and  the solar panels to keep the fridge running at the photo camp whilst I am out exploring the local region  during the day are the next  necessary items to acquire. Then camping on a phototrip  is no longer a hardship.

The Walleroo photo camp was the third  time that I had done an 8×10 road trip with the Cambo monorail. Previous trips were to Kangaroo Island and to the Coorong where I stayed in rented accommodation.  The Wallaroo  photocamp trip  was  to see if camping and  using this  kind of old, heavy and cumbersome equipment  was practical and worthwhile  for the proposed conceptual  silo road trip   project.  The picture above of the silos at Walleroo was made from the foreshore of the Spencer Gulf;  the one below was made from the street behind the silos. Would this  test run show me whether a conceptually orientated,  location work was as feasible as I thought?

I  encountered a couple of  problems photographing  these silos. Though the front standard rise on the Cambo can  cover the height of the silos  with the tripod on the ground, the 300mm Schneider Kreunach-Symmar 5.6 lens that I was using could not cover the extreme  front standard rise that was required.    I also experienced bellows yaw on the Cambo (on both the 8×10 and the 5×7) when the front standard  was  pushed to its limits. These are the limitations of  working with  my old and basic large format equipment and they are over above the problems I experienced in scanning the 8×10 negatives on an Epson V700  flat bed scanner.

silo+road, Wallaroo

There is no way that I can overcome these camera problems so as to photograph  the  silos along the Mallee Highway by standing on  the roof of the Subaru Outback.  My only option   is  to raise the camera by using the geared centre post of the heavy duty  Linhof tripod, buy a small step ladder to stand on, and hope that there is not  too much wind during  the photoshoot.

The above  problems have put the conceptually orientated Mallee Highway silo project on the back burner. This was conceived as as simple and modest project of serial imagery:  I would photograph the various silos along the Mallee Highway as I travelled up and down it.   Instead of the artless,  lo-fi,  DIY aesthetic  of the conceptual art in the 1960/1970s — that is, using a cheap film camera and sending the images to a chemist to  be developed and printed—  I would use one 8×10 camera, one lens and one type of film. What could be simpler than that?

The emphasis of the conceptual project is, as it was for the conceptual artists in the 1960s/70s,  on the idea–15 silos on the Mallee Highway— with  the photography being  the tool to realise the idea. The motivation  behind this project was to build on the rather thin tradition of conceptual photography in Australia:  Wesley Stacey’s three deadpan series: The road: outback to the city (1973-75); The road: Paraburdoo and Tom Price, The Pilbara, WA (1973-75) and The road: up the centre, SA to NT (1973-75) and Ian North’s series of bland  Canberra suburbs  and its uninviting streetscapes,  Canberra Suite (1980-81).

It all sounded so easy. I reckoned that I could knock the project  off in a year. I didn’t anticipate the difficulties that I would encountering using the 8×10.   


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  • Reply Stuart August 15, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Hi Gary
    Have you considered mount a tripod/mount head to a large 2 meter plus high step ladder?

    • Reply Gary Sauer-Thompson August 15, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      Thanks for the suggestion Stuart. I will try raising the camera by using the geared centre column and standing on a small step ladder, or the huge Pelican case that I transport the 8×10 Cambo in first off. I have to admit that I am reluctant to weld my very expensive Linhof 3 way pan tilt head to a stepladder.

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