Trying New Things : Adelaide Road Trip

I recently took a trip to see the Trent Parke exhibition in Radelaide. The trip itself was to act as a bit of a “reset” button. After focalising (one of my French bosses created this word!) on black and white street photography since November 2013, it was time to just stretch the legs again. Some coloured C41 Portra 400 in 120 and 35mm soon arrived from B&H Photo, ready for the trip.

If you can’t get to see the exhibition, you can read about it here :

It was also time to just make sure I wasn’t becoming a one-trick pony. Adelaide has some great street locations but there were quarantined for the duration of the visit. New city, new situations. Urban landscapes were on the agenda.

Staying in Glenelg offered plenty of opportunities for beachy shots. Some classify them as “street” but as soon as there is more sand or water than concrete and asphalt in an image, it falls outside the definition for me!

Roll 230 Portra400 H1 50192

The first shot I am fairly happy with was taken mid morning, just after the sun had lost it’s golden pallor again until sunset. It was taken on a medium format camera. The composition is pretty cool, but the colour has washed out, and with the overcast sky, looks a bit grey for me. The lack of colour and my ability to fix it due to some colour issues in my manky eyeballs, is a bit frustrating. It just served as a reminder why black and white always ends up back in my cameras!

The eye follows the path of that the schoolkids are running. Running in two directions adds a dynamic feel to the image, and the approach of the kids to the viewer’s position creates some tension.

Without the rich colours of the beach – sandy and blues – the image loses a bit. Perhaps if there was a more threatening sky?

Maybe it would have worked better on BW film? Let’s have a look :

Roll 230 Portra400 H1 50192

The next thing to explore was a theme of insignificance, delivered by perspective and distance.

Roll 236 Portra400 H1 50297

Light and shadows have not hit the top of my shoot list for some time, driven mainly by the time of day I tend to be able and get out with the camera. I was sitting up in my room, after being out shooting earlier in the morning, as the sun rose. The light came streaming through the buildings, leaving massive cookie cutter shadows on the beach.

Channeling some inner patience, I saw this person coming, walking their dog, and set up for the shot. Scanning the beach, I spotted the light box in the image, and quickly worked out the subject was heading straight for it.

I managed to get the shot at the right moment, although it would have been better if the dog hadn’t have exited it so quickly!

Roll 236 Portra400 H1 50298

There is also this option of the same couple… Not sure which one will make the final cut yet

Up next is some more beach shots. I am not much for “natural” landscapes. Whilst I admire great landscapes as a viewer, the hold little interest for me as a photographer. These are the beachy “urban landscapes”…

It has been so long since the last colour scans went through the V700 that I appear to have lost any ability to retouch colour. The compositions are OK. Over the course of a few days, I visited these volleyball nets a number of times to try and see something different each time. The one of the left is a nice detail shot and leads the viewer’s eye straight in, and is supported by the parallel shadows on the sand. The right image has an aesthetically pleasing horizon and cloud formations contrasting with the light feel of the beach.

A rental car was an invaluable tool whilst visiting. I managed to clock up quite a few kays looking for opportunities like a mini Stephen Shore… Road tripping the heck out of Adelaide! Whilst plenty of urban exploration adventures were had – there are many abandoned and derelict buildings easily accessible – a lack of experience and inspiration led to a lot of ordinary shots being committed to film. The only one that even vaguely makes the cut is this abstract composition (which has been x-processed in lightroom to add interest)

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There is an idea bubbling away – to use street lighting as abstract UFO images… but I haven’t quite got it right yet. This is the closest to an attractive composition. The subjects form a rough gestalt triangle in the frame, and leaves the top third of frame as pleasing empty space.

The only other Urban Landscape that worked was this image featuring an aesthetically pleasing group of three subjects in a triangle, combined with some movement in the strips of fabric.

Roll 237 Portra400 H1 50316

There is a dramatic sky. The perspective is interesting, with the point of view being much lower than head height.

What did I learn?

1. Be careful about obsessing over one particular genre of photography. Other learnt skills will atrophy and make it hard to pick it back up. I have had some success in the past with Urban Landscapes. After a long hiatus, it was very difficult to have a “win”.

2. My ability to judge anything on colour film sucks. I will probably have quite a few rolls of Portra 400 available for sale soon! The whole exercise has reinforced why black and white is my pal.

3. It’s time to focalise (again, a “franglish” word) on light and shadows again. Over the last eighteen months it has drifted to pure composition. Timing shoots for the golden hours, when the sun is casting long shadows will be a priority.

4. Buy a red filter. Improve the drama and tension of black and white film photography…


2 Responses to “Trying New Things : Adelaide Road Trip”

  1. I really like that word “focalise’ I think it is now part of my vocabulary. Interesting post. Not sure I see that you should give up on colour though. Interesting the images of the volley ball nets. I got some of the same nets when we were in Adelaide for a couple of months last year, though mine were in b/w. Loved the lines and shapes. Great area Glenelg. I even liked the tram ride from the city. Like a “cross section’ through the city and suburbs.


    • Didn’t quite make it onto the tram, but will next time! Whilst we laughed at my french boss for creating the word, it has managed to enter my vocab too!


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