Don’t lose sight of the important stuff

On August 12, 2013 by Simon Fleming

About a month ago I embarked on a 2 week trip with a bunch of mates across the Simpson Desert, stretching across parts of the far north of South Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. The 3500km round trip from Adelaide to Adelaide is a familiar one that I have done three times previously over the last 18 years. Each crossing has been different due to the company involved, the chosen route, and the time of year to name a few. This time around was significantly different though as I had my 9 month old daughter with us, along with a number of other young ones ranging from 1 year old through to 14.

I had big plans, photographically speaking, for this trip. A few personal project ideas along with some updated landscape shots and a new panoramic or two were on the cards. Unfortunately due to varying reasons most of the items on my mental shot list went unchecked.

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If I am being perfectly honest I was pretty disappointed initially that I didn’t find a way to get more of the images I had been dreaming of. I shot maybe a quarter of the number of images I had estimated I would shoot. For two weeks and 3500km I carted around a full pack of my Nikon kit, a light stand and associated bits, a few light modifiers and a bunch of speed lights – and hardly touched any of it. After I dumped all of the images onto hard drives at home and backed up I just let them sit for about a week, occasionally having a quick flick through them but not really spending any real time looking at them carefully as I was still in the grumps about my efforts. When I finally did sit down in front of them it struck me what an idiot I had been. While I was busy stewing over the plans that didn’t come off I completely missed the fact that I had still been taking pictures and documenting our trip, the first one with my new daughter, and the first for many of my friends and their kids who were with us. I always had my Fuji X100s within reach, and turns out I had used it a lot more than I remembered.

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Photographs are our memories in a physical, tangible form, and you often can’t place a true value on them. It doesn’t matter what you wanted to do sometimes, it matters that you did something. I may not have taken the award winning panorama that I had envisioned, or the complexly lit environmental portrait series that I had planned but I did bring back with me photographic memories that will be cherished forever, and by all who were part of that memorable trip.

Thankfully on this evening I did get off my lazy butt and got the tripod and D800 out for some night work as we had some pretty memorable weather come through, including an awesome lightning show. (click for a bigger version)

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Here is a brief account of one of the more testing events on our trip:

It was a trip full of challenges – big challenges – and I’m not just referring to the young ones needing nappy changes. We had numerous mechanical failures within our convoy, many of which were truly inexplicable – just plain bad luck. The worst of these was a transmission failure on one vehicle requiring it to be towed. This occurred in one of the toughest areas of the desert to drive through, and near enough to exactly half way across it wasn’t funny. The towing vehicle, after an admirable effort covering a tough 70km section of terrain blew it’s rear differential, which meant our convoy of five was now down to three able vehicles. Through some demented twist of fate luck, the two disabled vehicles had the same rear differential housing and mounting points so we performed a complete swap of the axle & differential housings (drum to drum) that night, in the middle of nowhere with minimal tools and equipment (we are all reasonably capable bush mechanics and one of our group is also a fully qualified mechanic). The vehicle with the busted transmission was towed back to the nearest point of civilisation in the opposite direction by a professional tow vehicle, which we had arranged via satellite phone. The other vehicle continued on with us, drove the remaining 250km out of the desert, and 1400km back to Adelaide. Another part of the proceedings that afternoon/night involved some of the best bush-welding I have ever seen, and wouldn’t have if this chain of events hadn’t occurred.

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When I look back at what we achieved, and under what conditions and stress we made those achievements I am truly astounded. It’s no wonder I didn’t get all of my own personal checklist completed on this trip but it was still a great trip none the less. It’s just hard to see the good points when you only focus on the bad.

A favourite of mine of my daughter Brooklyn…

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It was a tough trip for sure, and the good things were heavily disguised by the not so good but after all is said and done it was full of great memories and photographic opportunities – so much so I didn’t even realise what I had captured until weeks after returning. Sometimes it is too easy to get all wound up in the technicals and forget why you are taking photos to begin with…

To finish off, here are a selection of some other favourites from the trip.

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UPDATE – we also dabbled with video for the first time on this trip (yes I had some bigger ideas for that side of things too) in the form of a GoPro camera mounted in varying locations in and on my vehicle. The other guys were doing the same and the plan is to combine all the footage at some point and see what we can come up with. Below is a link to a very basic and rapid fire attempt at producing a movie trailer of sorts with some of my footage. I’ll put out the disclaimer now that I am no videographer / worthy editor. This was put together in about 20 separate sessions throughout an afternoon, in between doing a whole bunch of other things…   but it was a lot of fun.

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