Leica D Lux in the Outback: When light is all you have
Perhaps I should have remembered the prescient lesson from Robert Burns: The best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley.
I was so looking forward to my week on a houseboat in the most remote reaches of Australia’s Murray-Darling River system in far western New South Wales. A full week with a camera or two. There should be lots of good photographs waiting to be had, so I thought. But, dammit, after arriving out there I came back to earth with a thud.
First the good news. Four couples, all good friends, one quite luxurious houseboat in a truly remote part of Australia. Modern kitchen with all mod cons, dining area for eight, lounge area, five bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, kayaks and swimming deck at the back of the boat – bigger than many houses and apartments in the world’s best cities. It was February, so no surprise that it was hot out there, 42-44 degrees Centigrade every day. Thank goodness that friend Gerald hired a houseboat with evaporative air conditioning. Reading, talking, and general relaxation made it a great week on the boat.
I had the Leica D Lux 109 with me. A deliberate choice as I thought that I might use the short zoom at times when I couldn’t zoom with my feet because I was trapped on the boat and needed that extra bit of focal length. It’s a camera that I do like a lot. The EVF does its job well, and the f/1.7 aperture is a plus when the lens is wide open in lower light levels. I feel that the image quality is quite good, thanks to the Leica glass at the front of it.
Beer and skittles
But it wasn’t all beer and skittles. February, mid summer in outback Australia, supposedly somewhat intelligent people. But whatever were we thinking? The heat was stifling, so much that most of our time was spent cocooned inside the climate-controlled boat. It was just too hot to get off the boat and go for any long walks. Furthermore, when travelling along the waterways, the rivers continually changed yet somehow generally looked the same, and the land beyond the river banks also continually changed yet somehow always looked the same. It’s an ancient landscape.
So, how to find images while on the houseboat for a week? Keep an eye out for anything unusual. People, places, different sights?
Well, let’s consider people as subjects for photos. We were in the middle of nowhere, so there were days when we didn’t see anyone else out there. On the Sunday we did experience the noise and speed of a water ski race as twelve teams raced the clock for many miles up and down the river. And on one weekday we did see another houseboat, tiny by comparison with our gin palace. As far as people go, beyond ourselves that was it.
The quick and the modest
However, it was during a few minutes each day at sunrise or sunset that the light provided the opportunity to think and enjoy photography. Ancient trees on the river banks changed their colour and reflections quickly as the sun rose or set. The D Lux did what was asked of it and provided some memories of a few special moments every day. Phew.
Yes, sometimes when there’s not much else then the light is all you have to work with, and the moments are fleeting in the sunshine and heat of an outback Australian summer. Not as easy as expected out there for photography……and sometimes even too hot for fishing.