Looking For A Sign
The Picture The Strzelecki Track in the outback of South Australia photographed in a raging sand storm with the visibility down to about 50 metres and the temperature a very uncomfortable 45 degrees Celsius. These are hardly the conditions for enjoying the journey, but sometimes adverse weather can lead to photo opportunities, provided a suitable subject can be found… and the photographer is willing to brave the elements. The Photographer Writer and photographer Trevern Dawes has the rare distinction of being a contributor to the very first issue of this magazine when it was launched back in June 1979. Over 35 years later,
he is still as passionate about photography now as he was back then, and continues to regularly write for both books and magazines. The Equipment Canon EOS 5D Mark II D-SLR fitted with the EF 24-105mm f4.0 ‘general-purpose’ zoom lens. A 77 mm UV protective filter in place. Exposure control via aperture-priority auto set to f10 to provide a shutter speed of 1/1600 second. Sensitivity set to ISO 200. Manual focus. The Technique The key to the shot was the lone road sign and it was composed to be dead in the centre of the picture frame, emphasising the emptiness of the scene. Auto exposure and manual focus were established before leaving the vehicle because fiddling about in the swirling dust and sand wasn’t a good idea. This is a case of securing a shot or two as quickly as possible and then retreating as quickly as possible back to the 4WD. How It Was Done Basically… very quickly. Strong wind with flying sand is not a situation to be endured any longer than need be, not just for the comfort of the photographer, but also for the safety of camera gear. Finding a close or mid-range subject was never going to be easy. No trees, no horizon, no old ruins – just a road sign that by itself in good weather probably wouldn’t rate a second look. Tricks Of The Trade We’d all like to go about landscape photography in favourable lighting, but when circumstances are awkward it pays to be willing to look for all kinds of possibilities and be prepared to protect yourself and gear to the point of deciding if making the effort is worthwhile. Once the potential for a shot is envisaged, you decide from the comfort zone what settings to use on the camera and how the framing will be done. Then you act as quickly as possible. Dither too long in the elements and you and the camera gear could suffer. Back in the vehicle, the results were checked on the back of the camera. Everything looked good and there was no need for a second attempt. Making this check is critical as there is never likely to be a repeat performance. Degree Of Difficulty (Out of 10) In such wild conditions, the degree of difficulty was extreme while making something out of almost nothing all leads to a maximum score. Returning to the same location in similar conditions would be most difficult and any improvements unlikely. Can You Try This At Home? Only the hardy folk who live in the Strzelecki Desert – like the workers at the Moomba Gas Field – would be on hand to take advantage of deplorable conditions to chase wild landscapes in their immediate area. Nevertheless when it’s windy, wet and miserable on the home front (remember Sydney’s big red dust storm a few years ago) be on the lookout for photographs that might stand out. Provided you take care of yourself and protect the camera, you might just come up with something special.