22 Hours in Darwin, NT, 31.05.2015 to 01.06.2015

Dark Clouds Over Port Darwin

Although I have a category for Landscape Photography, I wouldn’t describe myself as much of a landscape photographer.  The widest lens I own is a 24-70mm, and as I don’t have a full frame, it means it’s really 36mm at its widest, so I don’t exactly have the kit for it, let alone the patience.  I guess it would probably be safer to describe it as tourist photography more than landscape.

Whatever it’s termed, I’ve been increasing lazy with it in recent years.  I remember the days when I would carry around a full set of camera gear including a tripod but more often than not I carried around the weight all day long without actually using much of it.  I bought a Olympus PEN-E1 a few years ago, an end of line buy that was a bargain at just under $500 as it came with the expensive pancake lens.

The Olympus became the camera that lives in my bag and goes with me everywhere.  Although it’s a lot more lightweight than a full bag of camera gear, it’s probably the most complicated camera I’ve ever owned.  Even with a small digital camera at my disposal, it’s largely been replaced in recent years by my camera phone.  The quality is nowhere near as good but I just love the ease and the immediacy of a camera phone.  It’s probably also helped that a lot of the paces I’ve visited in recent years have been places I’ve already been to and photographed with ‘better’ cameras, so there’s no need to take high quality photos of the same things.  It’s also good for taking photos of quirky/stupid things that you’d probably never dream of wasting film on back in the pre-digital days.  In a way it’s surprised me that I have ended up using my camera phone as much as I do, as there was a time when they were starting to come in as a standard feature that I was very anti them.  I think the singularity that Facebook has become has become the main driver, and the ability to share photos as soon as they’re taken.  I’ve also become a recent convert to Instagram.

Work has taken me across to Western Australian for what’s basically become a three week tour of the state and visits to three place that couldn’t be any further apart; Kununurra, Carnarvon and Ravensthorpe.  The flight to Kununurra involves a one night stopover in Darwin as the flight from Brisbane gets in too late to get there in a day.  I could have gone directly via Broome but staying a night in Darwin works out slightly cheaper which makes it an easy decision when you’re charging it to a job budget.

I’d never been to the Northern Territory before and an afternoon in Darwin was never going to be enough.  It reminds me a lot of some of those northern Queensland backpacker towns – Airlie Beach, Cairns – as the place is essentially a tourism service town to arrange tourist activities out of town.  Like those other places, all the hostels and booking agents are on the main drag through town.

One afternoon in Darwin was never going to be long enough. I would have loved to have had a week to go out of the city and out to Kakadu & Arnhem Land but just didn’t have the time available. I didn’t have time to do much; I walked along the Esplanade and out to the Sunday evening markets at Mindil Beach.  If you’ve been to one beach market, you’ve been to them all.  There’s a correct number of fisherman’s pants that anyone should own and I’ve already reached that number.  So I bought some oysters Kilpatrick and a drink and sat on the beach for a while.

I walked back to town and after dropping off my bag, headed out to the cinema a few blocks from the hotel to see Mad Max: Fury Road, which, despite the hype and amount of positive comments in my Facebook feed, was fairly terrible.  Drive in one direction chased by the bad guys, turn around in the middle of the film, drive past the bad guys while they’re not paying attention, close the gate before they can get back in.  It was like a Michael Bay film for people old enough to remember the 1980s and the original trilogy of films.

There were two mistakes I made in my time photographing Darwin.  The first was to head out wearing jeans. Despite being almost June, the heat and humidity was ridiculous (it was 33 degrees during the afternoon) and within about 15 minutes of walking around, I was really regretting not wearing shorts.

The second, and much more crucial mistake was only realising how dirty my camera sensor was when I downloaded the photos from the first few days of being away onto my laptop.  I never thought for a minute that it was that bad, I guess the dirt just doesn’t show in the light/dark contrast areas of photos taken at gigs.  What was even more frustrating was that the dirt on the camera sensor wasn’t just flecks of dust that could be removed with a blower but something that’s actually formed on the sensor, like a watermark or some bacterial growth.  Being out in rural WA meant that there wasn’t anywhere I could take the camera for a cleaning.

It’s a real shame, but most of the photos taken on my DSLR I my three weeks away aren’t that great and come with large splodges in the middle of them.  Some I’ve tried to airbursh out but others it just wasn’t possible to do with my skill level and patience.  Old habits die hard, so there’s also a fair few camera phone photos in the mix.

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