Frost in the Wimmera

The Wimmera is a large flat region in western victoria in australia. The district is located within parts of the Loddon, Mallee and the Grampians regions and covers the dry land farming area south of the range. The region is largely dependent on the grain and sheep industries and landscape is heavily dominated by flour mills and grain storage silos. Many of the smaller towns in the area seem time locked, showing lots of architectural and social relics of the mid 20th century and earlier. Its hard country, alternating between freezing cold in the winter and baking hot in the summer.

Local artist Trevor Tagliabue and I have been shooting in the region on and off for over a year now. This effort is part of a major project to document a significant an historical land form unique to this area. Eventually these images form part of a exhibition.

We work mainly from our base in Natimuk, a charming little bump of a town on the western highway. From here we plan key locations that we’ve identified over time that show potential. The shots in this post were taken over two mornings from a single spot in March 2019.

After getting up at around 5am (still dark) we went out to the car and saw that there had been an overnight frost. The car and the ground everywhere was covered with a layer of frost and ice. We steeled ourselves and chucked two cameras in the back of the car and shivering we set out to out for the Lunettes, the car heater going flat chat! (Australian for maximum setting). Arriving at the location we then hiked in to get to the exact position we knew would provide great sight lines as the sun came up. The site itself is on private property. We had permission to be there and we took great care not to wander onto crop land or damage the fences. My breath was a cloud in front of my face and it was so cold that after operating the camera for a couple of minutes i had to bury my fingers into my coat and gloves until feeling returned. As the light come up the the frost in the valleys was thrown into relief against the sky and the rolling countryside. As it got higher a beautiful peach band of colour could be seen above the fog. It was a very subtle thing which i tried hard to capture faithfully. In places it looked like sunrise over an inland see with the tilled soil forming islands in the mist.

It was magical to watch the light change as the moisture evaporated. There is only a small window to capture that delicate balance of luminance and atmospherics. We spent about an hour running about swapping cameras while the scene constantly changed. There is a kind of creative thrill that comes from making that choice of position and then having to wait. You can’t be everywhere at once and there is limited time. You have to trust your instincts knowing that choosing the wrong spot could mean you would miss another.

After spending about an hour frantically whizzing about juggling cameras and tripod we quit when the sun got too high and headed back for eggs and coffee. I’ll be returning in spring to see what the Wimmera offers.

I used two cameras on this shoot: The Nikon D850 with Tamron 70-200 g2, and the Phase One DF+ with Schneider 80mm f2.8 leaf and Phase One P45+ back. Both were on tripod with a shutter speed around a second at base ISO (64 for the Nikon and 50 for the P1). I didn’t use any filters apart from the UV. These images were processed in ACR, Photoshop and Capture One.