Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Leica D Lux in the Outback: When light is all you have

Leica D Lux in the Outback: When light is all you have

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  Air-conditioned gin palace in repose
Air-conditioned gin palace in repose

Perhaps I should have remembered the prescient lesson from Robert Burns: The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.

I was so looking forward to my week on a houseboat in the most remote reaches of Australia’s Murray-Darling River system in far western New South Wales. A full week with a camera or two. There should be lots of good photographs waiting to be had, so I thought. But, dammit, after arriving out there I came back to earth with a thud.

Good news

First the good news. Four couples, all good friends, one quite luxurious houseboat in a truly remote part of Australia. Modern kitchen with all mod cons, dining area for eight, lounge area, five bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, kayaks and swimming deck at the back of the boat – bigger than many houses and apartments in the world’s best cities. It was February, so no surprise that it was hot out there, 42-44 degrees Centigrade every day. Thank goodness that friend Gerald hired a houseboat with evaporative air conditioning. Reading, talking, and general relaxation made it a great week on the boat.

  Captain Ken on the bridge of the boat
Captain Ken on the bridge of the boat
  Gerald the keen fisherman
Gerald the keen fisherman

I had the Leica D Lux 109 with me. A deliberate choice as I thought that I might use the short zoom at times when I couldn’t zoom with my feet because I was trapped on the boat and needed that extra bit of focal length. It’s a camera that I do like a lot. The EVF does its job well, and the f/1.7 aperture is a plus when the lens is wide open in lower light levels. I feel that the image quality is quite good, thanks to the Leica glass at the front of it. 

  Leica D lux 109 – the aftermarket handgrip by Richard Franiec fits perfectly and significantly improves handling of the camera
Leica D lux 109 – the aftermarket handgrip by Richard Franiec fits perfectly and significantly improves handling of the camera

Beer and skittles

But it wasn’t all beer and skittles. February, mid summer in outback Australia, supposedly somewhat intelligent people. But whatever were we thinking? The heat was stifling, so much that most of our time was spent cocooned inside the climate-controlled boat. It was just too hot to get off the boat and go for any long walks. Furthermore, when travelling along the waterways, the rivers continually changed yet somehow generally looked the same, and the land beyond the river banks also continually changed yet somehow always looked the same. It’s an ancient landscape.

So, how to find images while on the houseboat for a week? Keep an eye out for anything unusual. People, places, different sights?

Well, let’s consider people as subjects for photos. We were in the middle of nowhere, so there were days when we didn’t see anyone else out there. On the Sunday we did experience the noise and speed of a water ski race as twelve teams raced the clock for many miles up and down the river. And on one weekday we did see another houseboat, tiny by comparison with our gin palace. As far as people go, beyond ourselves that was it.

The quick and the modest

  There’s a fast way to travel the river
There’s a fast way to travel the river
  …..and there’s a modest way travel the river
…..and there’s a modest way travel the river
  On shore, only saltbush and Eucalypts, and a single sign post breaks the monotony
On shore, only saltbush and Eucalypts, and a single sign post breaks the monotony
  …..but be careful if you head along the track to the deserted boat ramp
…..but be careful if you head along the track to the deserted boat ramp
  Younger River Red Gums, a few tens of years old, enjoy the water of the river
Younger River Red Gums, a few tens of years old, enjoy the water of the river
  Older Red Gums, a few hundred years old. It’s their world
Older Red Gums, a few hundred years old. It’s their world

Sunset

However, it was during a few minutes each day at sunrise or sunset that the light provided the opportunity to think and enjoy photography. Ancient trees on the river banks changed their colour and reflections quickly as the sun rose or set. The D Lux did what was asked of it and provided some memories of a few special moments every day. Phew.

  Evening quiet, last rays of light
Evening quiet, last rays of light
  Catch colours as they change by the minute
Catch colours as they change by the minute

Yes, sometimes when there’s not much else then the light is all you have to work with, and the moments are fleeting in the sunshine and heat of an outback Australian summer. Not as easy as expected out there for photography……and sometimes even too hot for fishing. 

  Evening light, deserted fishing rods, just too hot
Evening light, deserted fishing rods, just too hot

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Great Photos, Wayne. I use my Lumix LX 100 as my ‘go everywhere’ camera. The D-Lux is, of course, a copy of that camera. The temperatures which you got on the Murray-Darling River would have been similar to those we would have got in July or August in Qatar. The maximum temperature I experienced was 54C which was definitely a temperature for staying indoors. I have a typically Irish ‘complexion’ and my idea of a ‘tan’ is when my freckles all join up.

    The humidity was also very high in Qatar, particularly in August and September. After a walk you could squeeze out your shirt and have a bath in the contents. An Australian colleague with experience of such temperatures gave me the useful tip of having a warm down shower after coming indoors from the humidity. I usually waited until just before sundown before going out for a walk to catch the ‘golden hour’. Another trick was to go into the Souq and then come out of doors just as the sun was going down to catch some nice shots.

    Light and heat are nice, but too much in the middle of the day is a problem.

    Did you catch many fish?

    William

    • Thank you for your observations William.
      Re the fishing I’ve listed the successes in answer to David A above. Compared to photography, maybe the fishing was more successful in it’s own way !

      Re the photography, I too had a LX 100 at one stage, acquired it used but mint condition. I bought it before the D lux 109 to see whether I’d gel with it as a go-anywhere compact. I did. It was great, so I went ahead with the Leica 109 to replace it. In fact I overlapped them and did some comparisons for my own experimental curiosity. Jpeg images did look very similar when I dialled less noise reduction and a bit of sharpening into the LX100. The LX100 was actually a nicer handling camera until I attached that Franiec grip to the front of the Leica. So why did I sell the LX100 and keep the D lux 109? Nothing rational, just a strange psychological confidence in that red dot on the front (Likely quite irrational, but true!).

      And your observation that "Light and heat are nice, but too much in the middle of the day is a problem" is 100% correct. At least the heat in outback Australia is a dry heat, but bloody hot nonetheless. The heat knocks out the humans, the searing midday light knocks out the photography, just as you observed in the Middle East.

  2. Hi Wayne, Thanks for sharing the story, and the images. It looks like a nice relaxing way to spend a week, although like William below I am not a great lover of the extreme heat. Might have something to do with my fair complexion.

    On the camera front, I did weigh up whether to buy the D-Lux, when I bought my X, and as we all know I settled on the X. So it is nice to read about the D-Lux I never bought.

    Dave

    • Gday Dave. I’m quite happy with images from the D lux 109, feeling that the Leica glass in front of a 4/3 sensor does a quite good job. I also have an X2 which provides superb images for sure, but sometimes the f1.7 wide open or the short zoom of the D lux 109 provide their own advantages. (That said, I did like your low light X images posted a few days ago, and was impressed with the way that the stopped down X with a small tripod did a great job in low light).

  3. Thanks Wayne, an interesting account of your vacation. The Leica D Lux was perfect for the occasion. I was looking forward to seeing portraits of the fish you caught and cooked for supper.Did you catch any?

    • Hello David. Yes, fish were caught. Gerry caught two 2.5kg (5lb) callop, a native Australian freshwater fish, using lures mid depth. Superb eating. Using bait weighted to the bottom we caught many european carp. Pests, not good eating so we didn’t bother, but there’s a lot of fun spending 10mins bringing in a 5kg carp on a fly rod. And each morning Gerry and Colin checked overnight nets in which they caught yabbies (freshwater crayfish, genus Cherax). They were a great start to a meal.
      Unfortunately no Leica images of the fish – only iPhone. I could be wrong but I think that Leica usage while fishing with smelly bait hands probably isn’t for me.

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