May, 22 2010
Round Hill, Newman
William L Fox

That evening we drive our rented four-wheel drive vehicles to the top of Round Hill to watch the sunset. In the distance a storm brews over the mountains, the sunlight breaking through in rays during what photographers often refer to as 'the God Hour.' Everyone once again disperses to find a vantage point, and I sit with Les while he works with his Hasselblad medium-format camera on a tripod. He stands on his tiptoes while he works, answering my question about his stance with “every centimetre counts.” All these guys like elevated views and the late raking light in order to create contrast across what is a flat country. They'll use ladders, the vehicles, lifts, hills, outcrops, anything. The American aerial photographer Michael Light, who has worked extensively in the desert Southwest, calls it “ late-afternoon axial three-dimensionality,” an effort to describe how the angle of the light and saturated colours allow us to perceive more depth in the landscape than the washout of vertical light at midday.

Les isn't making a panorama, but stitching together shots. “The camera might not move, but I'm taking individual pictures and optimizing separate elements for use in post-production.” He shoots the sun, and the rays, and the clouds, and the landscape, all grist for the digital back on his camera and then the computer, where he will stitch them all together. “It's a different way of dodging and burning.” I can't help but compare his working method to the cognitive act of seeing and then assembling a memory, and in turn that leads me to ponder how he is assembling a picture of country in comparison with the Martumili painters. Neither are simple endeavours, both involving a deliberate choice about the layering of information.

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