Catching Up a Year Later…

(Photos are at the bottom of this post, for those of you who prefer to not read the text.)

It’s hard to belive that more than a year has passed since my last post here. Where does the time go? It’s not that I haven’t been taking photos – to be certain, I have been very busy in that area; not to mention all the cameras and lenses that have passed through my hands in the intervening year while in pursuit of the perfect kit. My current primary camera is an Olympus OMD E-M10 mark II, acquired used a few months ago; it is a wonderful little camera that does pretty nearly everything I want. My much-loved Panasonic DMC-GX7 has become my back-up body and second shooter when required.

Some shooting highlights in the past year have included visiting country Victoria – the High Country, Portland, Castlemaine, the Coorong; vehicle events – a few car shows, lawn mower racing, the Ballarat swap meet, a Vinduro (vintage enduro) motorbike event; exploring the fascinating Warrock homestead, with dozens of outbuildings, near Casterton; a volunteer photo shoot for a community calendar, called Every Man and His Dog, featuring local blokes and their faithful friends; exploring local scrub tracks with a classic 4×4 I acquired this year in search of wildflowers; and the usual trips that are part of our regular routine.

I have changed macro lenses from the lovely Panasonic Leica 45mm f2.8 to the Olympus 60mm f2.8, which I found a better length to use as a portrait lens, and picked up an Olympus 45mm f1.8 portrait lens also for a steal. There was a Panasonic DMC GM1 that I bought to try, but quickly re-sold it; a few months later I bought another one (there is a certain rush from seeing how incredibly tiny this interchangeable lens camera really is when you first unpack it!), then decided to only keep the 12-32mm pancake zoom lens and sold the body. I also got a Panasonic 100-300 mark I zoom lens, which has been great for capturing little birds up close, but as helpful for far-away birds!

These purchases were all made after much research and consideration, with a view to selling to break even (though I usually made a profit by buying at the low end of used values). I have realised that I really enjoy the research that leads to the buying, even if it then means selling – it is a great way to learn more and have the opportunity for trying things with low risk.

Currently, I am trying out a Fujifilm X-T1 with adapted old manual lenses – a couple of Canon FD lenses from my first SLR, and a couple of Takumar lenses which were a birthday present. The first time I saw this camera was a few years ago in a Camera House store, where I had gone in search of another Fujifilm model. As I was there and it was far from home, I asked to handle it; oh my lord, it was fiiine! I was seduced by the analogue dials and retro styling, but it was many leagues out of my budget. Since then, I have owned a number of Fuijifilm cameras, but I was always moving towards this one.

It arrived in time to take away on a trip to the coast, and I decided to shoot like it was 2003, when I got my first 35mm film SLR Canon camera (a T50, which was followed a couple of years later by an AE1, both already old when I began shooting). With the 50mm f1.8 lens that I used back then, I set it to aperture priority and used the Classic Chrome film simulation. I’m not going to claim that it was a revelation – indeed, the lack of in body stabilisation (IBIS) was the hard part, which I expected (how on earth did I ever take clear photos back then?), and adjusting to not having a touch screen – which also made review of photos a chore, so in the end I didn’t – was only make okay by having a proper manual focus lens. In short, it is very like shooting in 2003, or, in fact, more like shooting in 1983!

Here are some of my favourite shots:

Overlooking Portland foreshore from the lighthouse.

Drive-by shot of a fantastic old home overlooking the bay. Heavily cropped – something which the larger APSC sensor copes better with than micro four thirds format.

Bokeh balls at the marina.

The curator’s cottage in the botanical gardens, which was occupied until the 1980s. I suspect the rose in front is Albertine, a variety I am particularly fond of.

Beside the croquet lawns in the centre of the botanical gardens is a rose garden; the double at the bottom of this photo caught my eye.

Dune vegetation at Cape Bridgewater.

Boatman’s conveyance at Cape Bridgewater foreshore.

Boots left behind at Cape Bridgewater.

What’s That Stench? (Hint: it’s not carrion)

Exploring one of my favourite local patches of native vegetation, I noticed a pervasive smell on the air, which could be described as a proper pong along the lines of raw effluent. I looked around, but could see nothing obvious, so I carried on photographing small plants, including this one:

It’s a lovely little ground-hugging plant, with leaves like geranium and a subtle flower ball made up of dozens of tubular flowers, that grows in open woodland.

The penny only dropped much later, when I went to my favourite identification book of plants for this area, Birds and Plants of the Little Desert: a photographic guide by Ian Morgan, Graham Goods and Maree Goods (2014), and discovered that this plant’s common name says it all: Stinking Pennywort. I kid you not! 

As I continued to visit areas where this charming little plant (scientific name Hydrocotyle laxiflora) grew over the coming weeks, I realised that the smell was more like rotting vegetation in pond water, and grew accustomed to it, if not actually fond of it.

Olympus EPL7 with Panaleica 45mm macro.

West Wimmera Wildflowers: spotted sun-orchid

Well, the time of wildflowers is upon us, and I am getting out among them as much as I can manage. This year I’ve been delighted to find so many orchids close to home, including the sun-orchids that I consider among my very favourites. 

Getting back into ‘ Olympus colour’ has also been a joy, and I am particularly enjoying the rendering of the images taken with my newly acquired E-PL7 + Panasonic Leila 45mm macro lens.

Roadside Spider Orchids: how on earth would you see them? 

Can you spot the spider orchids in the main photo? 

Wildflower season in southern Australia is often not as flash as it is in other places (I’m thinking particularly of you, Western Australia), as many of our local species are not very showy in the ways we might expect. 

Since I was a child, I highly prized the spider orchid, but never had so much opportunity to see them as I have in the West Wimmera, where there are many easily-accessible state parks full of beautiful plants. But how do you find them, when some species can be growing quite thickly yet be barely visible? You have to get out of your car (most of the ‘wildflowers’ you’re enjoying seeing from your car round here are either weed species or native shrubs, such as the very pretty, thickly-flowered Fringe-myrtle (Calytrix) in the main photo), and comb the ground, until you realise you nearly stood on one, and you step back and nearly stand on a cluster of them – suddenly, your eye is tuned in and you can see that they’re all around you! 

While showy, with their delicate markings and trailing arms, these spider orchids are also beautifully camouflaged – and they’re really not very big, as the photo with my post box key for reference shows. If I didn’t know where to find them at this spot, I would drive past them every day on my way to work none the wiser. (Thanks to my mum, who happened to find this place and share its location with me.)

Olympus EPL7 with Panasonic 14-140mm lens. 

The Flowers That Bloom In The Spring 

It never really feels like springtime to me until the native wildflowers bloom en masse, which happens only briefly. I am so fortunate to have these amazing specimens growing only a scant mile from my home – some even nearer, in my own nature strip.

Clockwise from top left: Donkey orchid (Diuris pardina); Leptospermum sp.; Purple Beard-orchid (Calochilus robertsonii); One of the many varieties of bush pea; Maroonhood? (Pterostylis pedunculata); Goodenia sp.?; Coarse Twine-rush (Apodasmia brownii); lily species.

Ballarat Railway Station: two sparrows 

I recently read a quote from a respected photographer, who recommended not having film negatives processed for print until a year had passed, to give the photographer distance from the emotion connected to the moment the photo was taken. It’s a notion I like very much, and would like to try to practice. 

This one has been sitting in the archives for a few months, and was taken with my then every-day-carry camera, a Fujifilm X30 that I sold a little while ago. I had decided to try carrying my Panasonic Lumix DMC GX7 all the time, which is a bit bigger – particularly with the 14-140mm zoom lens that I usually use – and while that’s working out well, I do notice the extra weight and bulk when it’s hanging from my shoulder in my already-heavy bag! So I have been thinking about another, smaller, lighter option, of course.