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Barn finds in the Australian Outback: Land Rover and a British bus defy the red dust


Social distancing in these strange times? There’s possibly no better way than doing so in the Australian Outback. With lockdowns now just a bad memory in Australia (for the moment at least) and just a few isolated covid incidents apparently being well controlled, it has been time to consider travel.

So, where better to go for some peace and solitude than a couple of weeks camping in the Outback? I’ve just returned from a great fortnight, and have begun processing images captured out there, a long way from anywhere.

Click on any image to view it full size and to scroll through all photographs in this article

An unexpected barn find

The fun of isolated outback locations harks back to Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get”. He didn’t say it in reference to Australia, but it is quite applicable.

It was along one of the unmapped tracks that we happened upon an open shed. Not much inside, just a few old discarded vehicle batteries along with a sewing machine that had seen better days—and a classic waiting to be restored.

Protected from the elements by the shade and shelter of a shed, the old warrior was blemished only by the red dust. Kept in such a dry climate, it is a vehicle which awaits restoration. But certainly there’s no hurry on that front. Even the original tool kit is still open and untouched on the rear of the vehicle—a credit to the honesty and responsibility other travellers who have also found it, and respected it enough to leave it in peace.

Even more unexpected

Outside the shed, there was another classic. A double-decker bus, once one of Britain’s finest. Simply too big to fit in the shed. The story has it that it was owned by two fence builders as their mobile home many decades ago, travelling with them as they worked the never-ending miles of fence lines. On weekends they would drive it into a local town, generally many tens of miles away, and take the children for rides. Unfortunately, they didn’t always do their calculations, as on one occasion they tried to drive it under a railway bridge. It still bears the transformation of the top deck from that exercise.

A camera appropriate for the day

All images that day captured on a Leica X1. While it is now over a decade old, I thought it to be an appropriate bit of kit to use in an old landscape. And I think the camera enjoyed the outing.

When travelling the Australian outback the rule is to always travel in a group whenever possible. Then there will be others to help in the event of a breakdown. Otherwise you and your vehicle could be stranded until the red dust descends and your toolkit begins to resemble Tutankhamon on a bad day…


  1. Wayne, what a well documented travel cameo, wonderfully well captured by your venerable Leica X1. Just imagine the tales those artifacts could tell. Is there a wedding dress or Australian ball-gown somewhere, made with the aid of that old foot-treadle powered sewing machine? And what livestock were transported in that light pickup? We will never know, unless someone reads your article.

    Keep safe. It is never over until it’s over!

    • Thanks David.
      Yes, I’m sure those vehicles could tell some stories. Maybe the bus more than the Land Rover. I hadn’t thought about the Priscilla or Strictly Ballroom possibilities!

  2. I truly enjoyed the narrative and loved those dusty and derelict vehicles. The sand adds much charm to the images. What a shame Leica abandonned the X series. They are brilliant, small and simple cameras, so straightforward to use. That small 24 elmarit lens is really stunning as well.
    Thanks for sharing and stay safe.

    • Cheers, Jean.
      Mr X1 and I sometimes discuss the quality of that lens. Leica got that right.
      And it doesn’t seem to be subject to dust issues.

  3. Great story, Wayne. You have plenty of space in Australia, so an abandoned double decker would be easy to hide. Did you come across any tractors? They are the main barn finds where I come from. There is a joke about a farmer from Texas who told a farmer in Kerry that he had got on his tractor recently and it took him 3 days to get to the other end of his farm. The Kerry farmer said in reply ” We had a tractor like that one time, but we got rid of it awful quick “. Hope this ‘translates’.

    That red dust looks like it could go everywhere, even into your sandwiches!

    You have really captured all of that very well, Wayne.


    • “Translates” fully understood, William 🙂
      Out there it was wide open sheep grazing and cattle country, so tractors are a rarity.
      The red dust is ever present, just waiting for a chance to settle everywhere after being disturbed.

  4. I have a lot of sympathy with that bus. I once drove a high removal van under a low bridge: the hirer was not pleased. I enjoyed the way you used your X1 to explore the vehicles. Encourages me to go on trying with my X2 !

    • Gday John.
      I’m guessing that you had unknown neurones firing for an instant after you unknowingly attacked the low bridge. Likely just the same for the bus driver.

      Just for fun set your X2 to Standard jpeg setting with “Sharpening medium high” and “Contrast medium high”, then give Enhancement one click in post processing. Just back up Contrast to normal if you think medium high is too strong in the X2.
      Everyone has their own favorite recipe.

      • Thanks, Wayne, I’ll happily try your recipe. I do like the X2, it’s just that I’m more used to functioning with a zoom – eg my current go anywhere, fit any pocket Leica C (not C-Lux).

  5. Nice story and illustrations. The dust reminds me of when I was managing a hotel project in Qatar. Out in the desert in the afternoon 4WD driving followed by an early morning flight to London and on to Atlanta. Leaning over to sign the hotel register a small stream of sand left my ear and landed on the register. I do miss camping out in the desert and this reminds me of those good times. Thanks Wayne.

    • I’m smiling, Kevin.
      Sand from the ear could have freaked out hotel staff on the other side of the counter. Even more so if you had been dressed as Tutankhamonan (thank you to our Editor Michael for the ancient Egyptian inserts, I’m sure he was smiling as he added them).

      Yes desert camping is wonderful. Time slows down.

    • Having spent about 5 years in Qatar I am familiar with sand storms. The sound of your teeth grinding on ingested sand as you eat is not a pleasant one. You also understand why people in that part of the world wear veils and face masks. The purpose is not just religious or cultural, but also very practical. They can cover their faces in an instant when the sand boils up. And ‘boil’ is the appropriate word as the dry heat just before a sand storm hits is indescribable. I have some photos taken from my high rise apartment in Doha during sand storms and the reduction in visibility has an ‘end of the world’ feel to it. Also the sand in the atmosphere is so thick that you can almost look directly at the sun through it. If you open the door of your apartment, in no time you end up with a massive sweeping out job to do. I am sure that all of this will be very familiar to our friends in Australia.


  6. X1 RULES! One lens ring to rule them all! Really enjoyed topics, you have better luck than I in barns! Enjoy the Holidays coming up and all stay healthy!

    • Hello John.
      Yes, the lens is a winner, and so are those lovely big pixels.
      Without cropping or ultra large printing, then 12mp is all you need and then those large decade old pixels come to the fore.

    • Gday Conway.
      In an alternate life I might have enjoyed being a travel journalist. But Covid 2020 would have likely given that career choice a whack.

  7. Looks like someone has escaped the clutches of COVID 19, and managed to have some fun with your camera.

    We are currently still in a form of lockdown and barred from travelling around, which is no fun at all.

    Good to see you got the X1 out, and love the colours of the Leica.

    Keep safe. Dave

  8. Hi Dave.
    We’ve seen the news about the lockdown in the UK and parts of Europe.
    Over here we have had success with a strong lockdown in Melbourne and surrounds a month or so ago. Other small outbreaks are being controlled by rapid testing and contact tracing. So far, so good.
    But we all await a safe and effective vaccine. Bring it on……then we can all start travelling with our cameras again. Gotta use them before the smartphones take over!

    • Yes a vaccine that works, my fingers are crossed.

      I cannot wait to get out, I have a really decent story to write and indulge the Macfilosphers with. It is one you won’t see coming – well anymore than me using my smartphone to take images over the top of the 02 a few months back (feels like a lifetime ago).

      Roll on 2021, perhaps we will start to find a route out of this pickle, and back to photography nirvana.



    • Thanks Vlad for your astute observation.
      Yes, the headers refers to “barn finds” ……cos that’s become a worldwide accepted generic which has evolved into the ‘English’ language.
      But all other references in the text are to the “shed”. Hoping you find some comfort in that.
      Keeping it Oz.


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