Sovereign Hill

Sov Hill001I have been to a theme park in Ballarat, Victoria twice in the last 25 years – once as just a gawking tourist in jeans and jumper, and once as a re-enactor tourist dressed in period costume and equipped with a plate camera.

Well, a quasi-plate camera – it was the world’s rattiest Nagaoka 4 x 5 field camera with FP4 in the film holders and a Beck’s Symmetrical lens on the front. If I was fast I could produce a workable exposure by whipping off and replacing the lens cap. I had not learned the hat trick.

The visit with the camera to Sovereign hill was mostly a bust – the lens board was not light-proof and unbeknownst to me fogged most of the films badly. I really only succeeded when I was indoors and working fast. But every day has one high point and mine was a visit to the Red Hill Photographic Rooms there at the park. It was a typical dress-up studio but quite authentically done and with the saving grace of using 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 Ilford sheet film for exposures. Heaven knows if they do so now, or still exist.

After identifying myself to the proprietor I asked if I could have my portrait taken, but as his schedule was filled, he refused. However, his photographer agreed to pose for a shot at her camera stand and produced the lovely portrait you see. The file is complete in a photographic sense but has been recently altered through the instructions of Susan Ruddick Bloom – a noted digital art author.

Good place to visit? Yes, definitely. It would be a delight with a historical costume and a detective camera like the Hudson Detective. You could go everywhere and pose everyone, and presumably not encounter the troubles of the Nagaoka.


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