Thoughtfactory: large format

a minor blog about the trials, tribulations and explorations of large format, analogue photography in Australia

Posts for Tag: Linhof Technika IV

Waitpinga bushland + the Anthropocene condition

Living on the  coast of the southern Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia  has meant that I've become  familiar with both the local, banal or unscenic bushland that is considered unworthy of aesthetic attention, and  making large format landscapes of this region.  Since the past three decades have witnessed a growing awareness of climate change and its impacts on people and the natural environment,  photographing nature needs to take  this impact into account. How to do that with a camera and a lens is something that I  struggle with without resolving.

The two pictorial realist photos  in this post are  ones that look at the non-human world in the context of what is happening  to nature in the context of the background climate heating.  A first attempt,  as it were, to  link landscape photography and climate heating,  to push   the traditional centre of the human experience and the human aesthetic preferences aside and to initiate a photography of mourning within the tradition of landscape photography.  

This has made me aware of my unease with the views of those who hold that we live in a post-natural world. A post-natural world means that  nature is no longer independent of   human activity.  The world we  inhabit is the one we  humans have made.The cultural concept  for this new planetary epoch is the Anthropocene condition  in which  the geological strata we are now creating record industrial emissions, industrial-scale crop pollens, and the disappearance of species driven to extinction. This cultural concept is used by many to describe an era of accelerating human impacts such as climate change and biodiversity loss. 

 However, if climate change is the emblematic crisis of the neo-liberal Anthropocene, turning the world’s climate  into a joint human-natural creation, then nature  is still ontological independent of humans --- it  existed before us and will likely go on existing after us. Though the world we inhabit will be one that we have helped to make, and in ever-intensifying ways,  there is no  need reject terms such as the natural world. By “the natural world,” we mean  the material structures and processes of the  non-human world. So we should say  nature  is no longer unaffected by human activity. Humans are dependent  on nature but nature is not dependent on humans. Nature will continue to exit without us and will produce new species and forms of life without human intervention. .

Japanese Zen aesthetics: Mono No Aware

This post on Mono No Aware in traditional Japanese Zen aesthetics picks up on this previous  post about wabi sabi and my  large format photography.   This bushland photography in  Waitpinga bushland on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia was a little project during 2002 that was done on  the early morning poodlewalks with Kayla. 

That earlier post  highlighted how Wabi and sabi emphasise contentment and the acceptance of imperfection as a result of the ravages of time. Mono No Aware,  in contrast,  refers  to awareness and acceptance of the ephemeral of life. The “pathos” (aware) of “things” (mono), derives from their transience. The underlying idea is transience and impermanence in life. It is an acceptance of  perishability as opposed to the traditional preference for permanence. 

The most frequently cited example of mono no aware in contemporary Japan is the traditional love of cherry blossoms of the Japanese cherry trees. These  are intrinsically no more beautiful than those of, say, the pear or the apple tree: they are more highly valued because of their transience, since they usually begin to fall within a week of their first appearing.

The fleeting moment in the bushland was the  early morning light:

The light was ephemeral: it  lasted on this branch of the pink gum for a minute or so before disappearing.  I knew the time it happened in the early morning during the early winter months and I would have the 5x4 Linhof Technika IV set  up on its tripod waiting.  Often I would have the camera set up but the clouds would drift at the crucial moment and there was no light on the branch. 

cross processed 5x4 negatives

This  archival coastal image of  tree roots on the edge of the lagoon at American River on Kangaroo Island in South Australia was  part of a bunch of 5x4 colour negatives (Portra 160 ASA) that Atkins Lab -- a  commercial photo lab in Adelaide -- cross processed  in   E6 processing by mistake.  

I was pretty upset  at the time and I wrote about the episode  here.  The cross processed files remained in the archives and were ignored.  What has changed since then is that I've  been seeing a variety of the hand crafted alternative processing images  in the online exhibitions hosted by View Camera Australia.  I found these images fascinating as they opened up a different way of doing photography  to the perfection path  I'd been engaged in.   

Though I admired the work I was seeing in the online exhibitions I judged that the alternative processing pathway wasn't for me. I have  enough problems with large format photography per se without taking a portable darkroom into the field as well and taking 3 years or more  to become proficient in the process.  The slow process of  large format film photography has  enough  imperfection and unpredictability  to act as  counter balance to the computational digital for me. 

What I did  was  to take another  look at the ignored  archival  cross processed files but tI did  so  from the perspective of alternative processing. They actually looked ok. 

at Port Willunga

I  basically walked away from  the Currency Creek project. I couldn't figure out how to conceptually  continue with it.  It didn't grow into  a project as I'd hoped, mainly because  I found it too hard designing different situations and activities with models along the different parts of  the creek. 

I decided to take a different approach. I would just concentrate on intuitively making a few photos, put the conceptual stuff  in the background,  and then see what emerged.    I choose the coastal interface at Port Willunga. It was  a landscape where nature meet or interacted with human society. 

The ruined Port Willunga jetty is a tourist icon.  The sticks of the jetty, when Port Willunga was once a grain port,   are  much photographed from the shore.  The sticks or pylons butting out from the eroding sandstone cliffs are an  icon of local,  tourist photography.     

Currency Creek: rocks, trees, viaduct

The third  photo session at Currency Creek  in the same period was  slightly more deliberate or considered.  I was now starting to think in terms of large format rather than medium format,  by  learning to take my time making a photo,  and  accepting that this was an integral part of the large format process of photo making.  Its motto was slow down. Take your time. Don't hurry.    

However, my  process was still  largely intuitive. My memory of this event was something along the lines of:  "hey,  this scene looks rather  interesting so why not make a photo. It's a different aspect of Currency Creek than the creek itself."  So I'd line up the Linhof 5x4 Technika IV  and make a photo.  

Currency Creek landscape

On a latter visit to Currency Creek  we walked as far along the creek as we were able to  before hitting  the fences that marked private property/keep out of the farmland.   We returned  to an area just above the waterfall where we could sit and watch the water in the creek. We ---Suzanne, myself, and the standard poodles -- had a small picnic there.

I knew this area from our previous walks,  so I  had some  sense of what I would be photographing. I was starting to think  about what I was going to do at a  photo session before the event. I had  begun realize that the entire process of large format  is very different compared to medium format work,  which is how I had approached the former  when I was restarting large format.  I could also sense that large format gave me a sense of discipline. It slowed you down -- setting up the camera, composing, focusing, locating and handling the film holder before, during and after exposure. 

The conditions  for this photo  were similar  to those  of the earlier Current Creek session --- overcast with  flat light -- but it was in the late afternoon rather than at midday. I made a couple of photographs with the Linhof 5x4 Technika IV.  The process was largely intuitive.