January road trip to sunflower country
Just by chance, I saw a Facebook post about Sherry Christensen’s Frugal Film Project in late January. A couple of messages later, I was in.
As per the project rules, I looked through the cameras I’d picked up for less than $50 and decided to use a Canon AE-1 Program I’d just picked up for $20. Looking at the negs, it was pretty clear this camera had some serious shutter and curtain issues so I needed a replacement.
I’d never heard of the Olympus LT-1 until I picked it up cheap in a job lot of cameras a few months ago. Four rolls in and it’s one of my favourite pocket cameras. Time was ticking away and I needed to shoot a roll before the end of January. The LT-1 was called off the subs bench, loaded up with Kodak Gold 200, and we hit the road.
I chose Kodak Gold 200 as my film of choice for the project, both because of its price point and its familiarity. I’ve been shooting with it since I first bought my own camera in 1994. I love the way it renders colours – bright and rich – without being over the top. It really seems to suit the Queensland light. When the light is at its harshest, the colours seem to tone down and mellow out and it reminds me of Portra. I plan to put this film in a camera where I can overexpose it intentionally soon, something I can’t do with the fully automatic LT-1, unless I hack the DX code.
First port of call on the road trip was to visit the sunflowers in southern Queensland. From previous trips, I knew dawn was the best time to photograph them. The sun rises in January around 5am, so getting up early means you’ll pretty much have the place to yourself, with maybe the odd flock of galahs and cockatoos watching you as they nibble on the sunflowers. The fields look gorgeous bathed in the early morning light, a riot of blue, yellow and green. Dusk is the time to avoid, as the road will be clogged with dozens of tourists, all desperate for their sunflower selfie.
I love being out in the country. Australia is a land of wide-open spaces, but most of us cling to the coast, living in densely-packed cities with traffic, commuter trains and endless monuments to consumerism. There is something both fascinating and terrifying about the outback, and it gives us city dwellers the opportunity to see things we normally wouldn’t see.
Sunflowers might be the main attraction, but there are plenty of opportunities to find other subjects in this part of Queensland: silos, farm machinery, cows, wide-open country roads, wooden railway bridges. A beautiful old cinema houses the local RSL branch.
On our way out of town, I saw an abandoned tennis court on the main highway. We were once the most successful tennis nation on Earth, but these courts are now a visual metaphor for the state of the game here in recent times.
In the regional hub of Warwick, there are beautiful historic buildings. In Brisbane, they would’ve been demolished or gentrified by now. Probably demolished. Music floats out of the second storey windows of an old department store. A beautiful old cinema houses the local RSL branch.
My daughter asks me why everything is so old. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” I say. “It’s ugly.” she replies. No, it’s beautiful. You can still touch Australia’s past out here.
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