I picked up this camera cheap from an op shop because I wanted to slap the lens on my DSLR for that sweet vintage look. Needless to say I got curious and fell down the film rabbit hole. Since then I have picked up other film cameras, but this one is still my favourite.

Over the new years holidays, I decided it would be a good idea to go back to my hometown for the first time in over a decade to see what had changed. It is a small town about 500KMs west of Sydney, Australia, in the middle of the Riverina where I spent my highschool years. I took a handful of different film stocks on this road trip, but the one I was most excited to try was Velvia. I love the way slide negatives look so I wanted to try it out. Fortunately for me, although it was the middle of summer, I didn’t have to worry about the harsh outback sun as it was overcast. I’ didn’t have to worry about the limited latitude from slides, with the even lighting I was able to rely on the camera’s light metre.

An abandoned weatherboard house with dry overgrown vegetation

Time has not been kind

The house I grew up in stands abandoned and overgrown. It would seem that the draw of the city has led a lot of people to leave town. I was not expecting the area to be as desolate as it was, with no new industries and being outside of reasonable quality internet access, it is becoming thoroughly isolated.

The first thing I noticed about the negatives was how well it captured the colours of the town, it is perfect to capture the atmosphere and mood.

a long single story building with boarded up windows and faded signs on the gate to the large driveway

The only medical clinic within 45 minutes drive is boarded up and the signage faded.

I wanted to check out the medical centre to see if it was still operating. With the ageing demographic of the region, it is a disturbing sight to see the main building boarded up. Perhaps there is another way that medical care is provided, otherwise it would seem like the town and its people have been forgotten and isolated.

a while mechanics garage with faded and pealing pant. A single fuel bowser stands unused and rusting at the front

The service centre that once provided fuel and vehicle servicing is no longer

Luckily I had plenty of fuel when I got here, otherwise I would be up shit creek. With the large distances between towns, petrol stations are an essential part of any rural town, but the one that is in the middle of town, on the main street sits empty. Like most of the shop fronts around here, the signs are fading and paint peeling, the last decade of harsh sun and weather has not been kind.

The majestic cafe's faded shop front with a for lease sign in the window

The Majestic café was the heart of the town

One thing that I was looking forward to was getting some take away from the café in the centre of town. This was the local retail hub, acting as chip shop, news agency, grocer, and video rental. I hadn’t expected it to be closed, I have many fond memories of getting hot chips after school and having it be the central meeting place. Talking to some of the folks in the town, it had passed through a number of people who tried to keep it running, but it never lasted long, and has now been closed for over 4 years.

I really enjoy how well Velvia renders the colours, it feels more saturated that kodak colour negative films, but at the same time more true to life. What primary colours remain really pop in comparison to the sun-faded paint and dry vegetation around the town. I knew that it was going to be fine grained, but I was still surprised by the accutance and sharpness.

A diesel electric train pulling a long line of wheat carages being loaded at a road side silo

The grain industry is still going strong and one of the last still around

All summer long along the rail lines run massive grain hauling trains, carrying massive amounts of wheat and barley to export across all over Asia. For 3 months of the year trucks run through towns non stop carrying grain from farms to silos where they are stored. With thousands of tonnes being loaded, these trains get close to a kilometre long.

A few notes on the gear I was using, the lens was a 28mm Tamron Adaptall lens, and on the shots with the aperture wide open, or near to it there was quite a bit of vignetting in in the corners, which I had noticed on occasion when using this combination of camera and lens with black and white film, but due to the wider exposure latitude it wasn’t so pronounced. I really like the Contax 139q, I think it’s an underrated DLR. Although it’s an electronic SLR it has a lot of handy features like exposure lock, DOF preview as well as a simple way to do multiple exposures. Not only that, but it also has native Carl Zeiss glass, with a hefty price tag. The film was processed at Vanbar Imaging Melbourne, and scanned by me at home using a DSLR setp.

Thank you for reading, you can find me over on Instagram @larperwithacamera or over here if you want to buy me a coffee

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