It is odd under here.
The warm, almost suffocated air inside the velvety fabric tent. Like hiding under the covers. The image- all upside down, back to front and obscured, unfocused in a gridded glass plate. It is a concept of the life in front of the lens. While I look through this camera, a passer by, enamoured with the display of vintage technology, stops to take a photograph of a photograph being taken.
We are outside the museum for an introduction to our Ansel Adams-inspired photography workshop, learning what it is like to work with large format analogue cameras like those Adams would have used. We’ve toured the beautiful images in the exhibition with ANMM curator Richard Wood and now it is time for our workshop with tutors Michael Waite and Benjamin Stone-Herbert from the Australian Centre for Photography.
Tiny slide frames are handed around. This is how we will learn to compose our shot. Michael suggests that even contemporary landscape artists and photographers may not have any better tool for thinking about a shot than a simple rectangular frame held up to the life around them. The perfect photo may just be found in deciphering the best way to frame the vast chaos and disordered collection of shapes in any given environment.
It is really a perfect day to be out on the harbour. Blazing sun cut by the cool breeze flapping in from the open doors and windows of our tiny ferry as it powers down the Parramatta River. Michael encourages us to concentrate on the journey. To not see the ferry as a barrier between us and the “out there” subject but as something that could frame our images. A scratched window, a red railing, a smear of reflection all adds to the scene. This idea is inspiring and releasing to almost all the participants and they head about keenly experimenting with compositions in, on and through the ferry towards the passing vistas.
There is no shortage of beautiful and fascinating subjects- Graffiti-ed pylons, churning water, dilapidated boats and sheds along the river, or even the other photographers.
And it is lucky we are focusing on the journey.
As we pull in towards our destination (the semi- submerged shipwrecks of homebush bay) we discover the water level is too low to go any further today. We have to be content with a long distance shot or risk being marooned on the banks of the river. But there has been so much to capture already no one seems to be worried. As Ansel Adams would say “every experience is a form of exploration” and today, it would seem, we have been explorers.