I couldn’t believe my luck when Les walked out of his house, I knew I was going to make a farmer portrait sometime real soon.
We first met Les and his lovely wife Carol when we were photographing their daughter’s wedding a few years back. Had a bit of a chat about their life and where they lived just like always. As happens all to often, years pass and you lose contact. Until a few days ago. We were asked by a friend if we’d mind scouting a couple of locations for a possible product shoot. Just to clear here, we were asked to location scout. Not to shoot products, because that’s something we don’t normally do. Anyhow, we said yes. And so it came to pass, once again we would meet up with Mr and Mrs Dunstan of Underbool.
When we rolled to a stop right out front of the Dunstan home in Underbool’s main street, it took only minutes for the greetings to be over and for Les to pull on his hat and me to formulate an idea. I’m going to create a real live honest portrait of a farmer here, sometime today. Les and Carol kindly drove us around the district and along the way we learned some of the history, and lots about the local environment. We saw during our journey vast fields of grazing land, remnants of last years cereal crops, sand hills, four wheel drive tracks, trees sculptured into incredible works of living art by years of exposure to this harsh Mallee environment. Distant salt lakes and kilometre after kilometre of native Mallee Scrub. We even had the privilege of being shown a working Mallee Fowl’s nest. Had the nesting ritual explained to us and saw in the distance a shearing shed. Ahhh…. just what I needed. An ideal location for my portrait of a farmer. I remember asking Les if we could have a look at the shed later. The answer was YES!
I have to tell you, if you’re ever travelling, always take time to say G’day to a local. Even if you only chat for a few seconds. Those seconds are gold. Way better than reading any glossy brochures produced for tourists… Way Better… But I digress. After seeing and photographing a plethora of amazing locations with near endless possibilities, we arrive at the shed.
Walking around this old corragated iron building, I knew that my farmer portrait was inside. Having already armed myself with a medium format digital camera, with a standard lens attached. I took one tentative peek through a crack in the doorway and spotted the location for our portrait session. Nice light, not much of it but beautiful quality of light. I’d pre selected a wide working aperture on my camera and guestimated the exposure. I then locked the camera manual mode, because the last thing I wanted was a camera trying to fix the way I see a shot. Les kindly leads me into the shed via a ramp, normally reserved for our woolie friends as they exit said shed minus their wool. Miraculously, without having to prompt him, Les makes his way to almost exactly the spot I have selected for his portrait. We close a gate for him to lean on. Click, click, click and a quick check of a histogram shows my exposure guestimate is out by about a third of a stop. Probably a whole lot closer than I would have got using the cameras inbuilt meter, under shall we say challenging conditions. I drop 2/3 rd’s off the exposure just to give myself a little headroom for post production and take another six frames. A farmer portrait created in under a minute. Well under a minute if you don’t count the time spent previsualizing and planning.
Farmer and location hunting wiz, Mr Les Dunstan, photographed on location in a shearing shed near Underbool. My only regret in posting this image is that all the fine detail and nuisances of the original are totally lost. If you’re in our studio anytime, ask to have a look at the fineart quality print of this image. See for yourself just how good medium format digital capture is. Even when the photographer is hand holding the beast of a camera at what could be best described as Hail Mary exposure times.