The South Australian Desert in 35mm
- You define yourself as “Australian based. Experimenting with film.” Can you expand on this a bit, and tell us more about your craft and vision that drives your photography?
I love the process behind being able to craft an image manually from scratch. Only having a limited number of shots ensures that more time is taken to frame each image, and more consideration is given to entire process of taking the photo, and developing the film. There is a certain amount of nostalgia that comes with taking images on film. The light leaks and the subtle mistakes all create images that cannot be replicated digitally.
- What about the South Australian desert makes it an epic destination for a surf adventure?
The desert is wild, in every sense of the word. The waves are exposed, powerful, dangerous, and perfect. The heat during the warmer months can be unbearable, and freezing during the winter months. There is often nobody around, creating a sense of isolation and adventure that is hard to match. And, it is so refreshing to step out of the busyness of the city, work, and constant overstimulation in day-to-day life.
- Tell us about a typical day on the road, chasing waves?
It generally starts with dragging myself out of my swag at first light and checking the waves wherever we are. Coffee and breakfast are a must, especially early to avoid any big men in grey suits. Tides are pretty important, so generally we’ll shoot up and down the coast depending on the time of the day. If there’s no waves, the landscape is so amazing to explore, and incredibly photogenic. There are some of the most picturesque beaches in the world to swim or fish at and you will most likely be the only ones there.
- What was the most unexpected thing that happened on the trip? Anything sketchy, epic, or crazy that stands out?
Seeing a super frothing goat boater take on a pretty heavy wave at low tide was crazy! It looked like he was riding something he picked up at a garage sale. He paddled for this one well overhead set wave but didn’t commit, and tried to pull off at the last second. He ended up going over the falls still strapped into his boat. It was nuts. His boat was tomb stoning on the inside, upside down, with him still attached. Poor guy ended up paddling in after that one, although good on him for giving it a nudge with the most unconventional craft you could try and ride out there.
- For anyone planning a surf trip to the South Australian desert, could you offer 5 tips that might help make their trip a success?
- Pack thongs (or flip flops in America I guess?), the cliffs you often have to walk can be deceptively sharp.
- Buy a beer at the pub and have a chat to the locals; some of the stories they have to tell are wild.
- Bring a fishing rod, camera, good book, or something to keep you occupied. Desert fever sinks in pretty quick when the waves are bad.
- Chase a swell up the coast if the charts look good, it will be worth the drive.
- Make sure you have someone to surf with, some of these places are so sharky you’re a mad man if you surf alone.
Check out more of Tom Ling’s work: