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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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11 thoughts on “5 Frames of rural Australia on Velvia 100 and a Contax 139q with a 28mm lens – By Dylan Porter”
Man thanks for the write up. It’ made me feel sad to see your home town falling into destitution. And neglect – must’ve felt heart breaking – I know I would’ve.
Photographs are really atmospheric – capture the colour the heat and the mood very nicely
Love the camera – in my opinion one of the best compact SLR ever made. If you get a chance get the Yashica ML 50mm f2
Yeah it was, it was the first time that I’d been back there in a long time and it was crushing, it was the second last day of my trip and I had plans for the next day to shoot more but I was just too down.
Thanks! I think velvia is my favourite colour film that I have used so far, the colours are great. I have the yashica 50mm f1.4 as well and I think it’s pretty great
So many sad moments in this abandoned city ! No more hot chips at the majestic café !
Great story with the Contax 139 and 28mm Tamron lens !
The Yashica f2 isn’t as sharp but has some really nice wonderful Helios type bokeh and a lovely 3D rendering when shot at f2.8
Yeah the Contax 139 is a great little SLR I had one plus the Excellent Zeiss Planar lens.
Excellent choice of film. I call the colors- or colours as your part of the globe spells it- I call them muted. Perfect for a depressing setting. I’m a Pentax shooter mostly because it’s what I started out with and I can’t invest in another lens system. I really really want to believe they’re just as good as any glass the Germans ever made but even more aging eyes can see otherwise. Maybe I’ll get an adapter. I hate adapters. There always some loss of full functionality. Wah. Ok so you’re obviously a little older if you have the perspective of time to go back and view the death of your hometown. How long ago did you live there? Did some economic or environmental calamity suddenly occur or did it happen over time? You say they were drawn to the big city. Really? Why can’t a small town thrive?
I also have a pentax super ME as my second camera and it’s also enjoyable to use.
Its been about 15 years since I lived there. There isn’t one big thing that causes it, just lots of small things, and a lot could be said about how politics and economics influenced it but the big thing is isolation. It’s an area the size of Connecticut, but with a population of 5000, it had a population density similar to Alaska.
What a poignant visit to your hometown. It seems the place has suffered the same fate of many small towns in the U.S. heartland, with young folk leaving for opportunity. Thanks for the images and your remembrance.
The pictures and the story they tell are excellent and I envy your abilities.
When you talk about slide negatives do you mean prints?
Thanks! I think being able to tell a story rather than just making a picture is an important part of photography, so it’s good to hear that I’m succeeding at that!
I mean the little frame of film, I guess for slide film isn’t strictly the most correct term but communication is a ballencing act trying to communicate the most amout of information to the most people in the simplest way possible
One of the saddest human stories I’ve ever read on this site. Your photography shows an unflinching look at the death of a once vibrant community.
Your pics are as poignant as your words. Depressing but beautiful photos.
Where did your family relocate to? Have any of them returned just to see the town today?
CONTAX SLR cameras were fine machines, but really never made any inroads here in the US. I knew a couple of people who used them while I was in college and they swore by them.