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Ironfest: shifting gears for Lithgow


 

Steampunk inventor Bruce Hodsdon of Ingleburn at the 16th annual Ironfest at Lithgow Showground. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Steampunk inventor Bruce Hodsdon of Ingleburn at the 16th annual Ironfest at Lithgow Showground. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

By Ellen Hill                                       Photos: David Hill

“We have an executioner on duty. He’s explaining his craft to someone – it seems to work.’’

Emcee Friar Craig Batty has been whipping up the peasants with outrageous one-liners for years.

“Medieval torturers: the only people allowed to be drunk at work’’; “The grandstand is a designated bomb shelter; “It’s okay to get killed, just not injured – there’s too much paperwork’’.

Steampunker Augustus Smoke at the 16th annual Ironfest at Lithgow Showground. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Steampunker Augustus Smoke at the 16th annual Ironfest at Lithgow Showground. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

He continues as the ominous vibration of a procession of World War II vehicles take to the racetrack.

“There is an attack imminent,’’ Batty blares.

“Do please cover your ears and close your mouth as the firing starts.’’

Under thunderous skies, a medieval knight decked out in iron helmet and chainmail covers his ears while a French damsel in a cylinder caul headdress takes a picture on a smart phone and gluts of Steampunkers cheer and stamp their feet, trinkets and baubles jangling and glass eye pieces glinting.

Crowds of voyeurs in jeans and caps gawp in amazement at the mish-mash of history and unabashed exhibitionism surrounding them.

“Don’t stand too close to the fence or you might get hit,’’ Batty booms.

A camera drone buzzes overhead capturing the whole spectacle.

“The aerial attack has been thwarted. The displacements from Lithgow Small Arms Factory saw them off.’’

The crowd murmurs and shuffles in anticipation for the next instalment.

“Where else can you go to have your children disembowelled?’’

The Kingdom of Ironfest, in a windswept valley in Australia’s first industrial heart, Lithgow just west of the Great Divide, that’s where.

For 16 years, long before Game of Thrones, Vikings, Marco Polo and the like, the secret lives of those who cover inhibition with costumes have been played out in a surreal real-life fantasy for all to witness at Lithgow Showground.

The “Festival with a metal edge’’ has strayed slightly from its original intention of showcasing metal art and celebrating Lithgow’s industrial heritage.

These days there are fewer medieval groups and more Steampunk. Regardless, the event attracts an ever increasing number of people eager to transform from bland to brazen.

Chainmail jewellery maker Tamara Dalrymple of Blacktown, who attended Ironfest with partner Graeme Paterson, said: “When I dress up I can be myself.’’

Kendall Bailey of Redfern in her extravagent rendition of Maleficent. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Kendall Bailey of Redfern in her extravagent rendition of Maleficent. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Like every hard core cosplayer Kendall Bailey of Redfern knew her costume would create a stir amongst the watchers.

Resplendent in gold medieval-style gown, cosmetic cheekbones, towering horns and wings with a 1m span, she faced a wall of lenses at every step as her interpretation of silver screen character Maleficent.

“It’s one way you can do art without having to publish it, and everyone can enjoy it,’’ she says.

For Steampunkers Natalie and Ray Everton it’s a family activity they enjoy with sons Joshua, 16, and Fletcher, 10.

Deesh strides through the lush grass besides the row of Australian colonial era canvass tents, her navy blue medieval gown flapping in the wind, her dark hair playing around her face. She looks exquisitely regal.

Her slim frame is deceptive: Deesh is an expert – and ruthless – swordswoman, capable of packing and taking a bone-jarring wallop.

Swordsman Rob Lyon of Sydney prepares for battle. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Swordsman Rob Lyon of Sydney prepares for battle. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Partner Rob Lyon used to be satisfied playing Dungeons & Dragons.

These days, he likes a more robust game – sword play.

“Some people don’t like to be hit hard but I like to be flogged so I know I’ve been hit,’’ he says.

“You can be whatever and whoever you want to be. Some people take it to the enth degree.’’

John Pettigrew from Tamborine, Brisbane, likes the Viking era. With cascading grew/white hair and beard, he is on the road six months of the year peddling drinking horns on the re-enactors festival circuit.

“My wife passed away four years so there’s nothing to keep me at home now,’’ he says.

“I like the Viking period but I’m damn sure I wouldn’t like to live in it. The average age was only about 24; very few would have gotten to see their grandkids; there was disease everywhere. It was a hard life all round.’’

For mechanical engineer Bruce Hodsdon of Ingleburn, Steampunk is all about the detail: “Too much glass is never enough.

“I like to look at that things and think: `That can actually work’.’’

Ironfest is as much about a gathering of artists, re-enactors and cosplayers as it is about an industrial town emerging from its time languishing in the shadow of the hulking golden Greater Blue Mountains escarpment.

Viking John Pettigrew of Tamborine, Brisbane. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Viking John Pettigrew of Tamborine, Brisbane. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Dotted with gritty industrial sites such as the Blast Furnace ruin, the Small Arms Factory and State Mine Museum, the largely working class population is reeling from the recent and imminent closures of its main employers – the coal mines and the power station.

Rather than wallowing in self-pity, Lithgow Council has implemented a range of morale-boosting initiatives.

Efforts to reinvigorate the town centre with murals, shop window displays and retail competitions aim to encourage local business while events such as Lithglo lighting show and Halloween encourage town pride and foster community spirit.

The plan has paid off, along with a new focus on local tourism.

The fact that the town’s first female Mayor Maree Statham supports these events in spectacular style must surely help too.

 

Magnificent in head-to-toe Steampunk costume with trademark coral coloured lipstick and immaculate coif, Madam Mayor made a jaw-dropping debut on the dress-up stage at the 2014 Ironfest and was unrecognisable in a red mask and cape at Halloween.

“I do it for Lithgow,’’ she says, again in full Steampunk attire.

The success of Ironfest, which began when metal artist Macgregor Ross convinced about 200 mates to turn up to the inaugural festival 16 years ago, is testament to that – about 16,000 attended on the April 18-19 weekend.

Detail work of the Steampunk outfit adorning the elegant Mayor of Lithgow Maree Statham. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Detail work of the Steampunk outfit adorning the elegant Mayor of Lithgow Maree Statham. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Icy rain begins to fall like medieval arrows from the sky, the freezing droplets stinging the eyes as they splosh on bodies unprepared for damp rising from beneath and suffocating fog bearing down from above.

Kids wearing Roman helmet-style beanies, wielding plastic swords and lance splinter mementos burrow into fleecy hoodies, stuff mottled hands into denim pockets and trudge slowly through the wrought iron gates of the showground.

Behind them, fantastic characters pull woollen capes tightly around themselves as they wander through the makeshift campground: members of Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s own 73rd Regiment in their red and white colonial uniforms chat with those of the Australian Armoured Vehicle Association while Danish wenches prepare hearty meals in cast iron pots and the kings of the joust brush down their steeds.

The stalls are battened down and the blacksmith fires doused until next time.

But next time is not next year. For these folk, Ironfest is not a one-off event. It is a mobile playground filled with every character of the imagination.

Members of the Macquarie's 73rd Regiment re-enactment group (l-r) Simon Fowler and Lea Barnett study an antique from the period. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Members of the Macquarie’s 73rd Regiment re-enactment group (l-r) Simon Fowler and Lea Barnett study an antique from the period. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

The weird and the whimsical roam the nation in search of playmates.

They cross paths (and swords) at the Australian Celtic Festival at Glen Innes in April, Rowany Festival in April, My Lords and Ladies Medieval Fayre at Doonside in May, Winterfest Sydney Medieval Faire at Parramatta in June and St Ives Medieval Faire in September.

They re-convene at Abbey Medieval Festival in Queensland in July, Gumeracha Medieval Fair in South Australia in May and Balingup Medieval Carnival in Western Australia in August.

They are the ones who have courage to act out their fantasies and breathe fire through their inner St George’s dragon while the rest of us gaze with jealous eyes from beneath safe floppy fringes in wonder and wish we too could unleash our inner Captain Victoria Winter-Buckingham, don squeaky leather corsetry, adjust our decorative cogs and pose ever so politely for photos.

 

 

Go to www.ironfest.net for more information about Ironfest and Lithgow Tourism for more details on other events in the area.

Go to www.deephill.com.au to see Deep Hill Media coverage of Ironfest throughout the years.

* David and Ellen Hill received complimentary into the Ironfest event

Steampunkers and their bling. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Steampunkers and their bling. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

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Colour or black and white?


daves blog 1So you’ve shot an image that you’re itching to process. You’ve culled, downloaded the very best of the best and now you’re in ACR staring at this image on screen feeling like you’ve just opened a Christmas present.

Now what are you going to do? What little tweaks and tugs will you make before you totally destroy this masterpiece you’ve been so thrilled to unwrap? The most burning question that comes to mind is – colour or black and white?

Before making your decision, realise there is an infinite amount of choices to be made beyond simply “colour or black and white”, all of which are dependant on your eye for tone and how your image was lit in the first place.

As photographers we know that tone affects detail and whether there is any loss or degradation in shadow/highlight areas of an image. But were you aware that colour affects tone as well? And just to further confuse things, the luminance and hue of a particular colour will further affect the tone of an area.

So how are we going to get back to enjoying the photographic process (and in particular our images) without getting completely lost in the litter of information overload?

Let’s start by bringing it back to what your eyes see and not what the camera or your image editing software dictates – these are merely tools you use to achieve the results YOU want (it is your image after all, isn’t it?).

I’ve given some examples below of what can be achieved subtly, always keeping in mind that a little goes a long way in giving an image resonance. My intention here is not to tell you what style or “look” is right nor is this a how-to blog. Rather my aim is to provide another way to view your images a little deeper than simply in terms of colour or black and white?

 

Mt Banks 05Mt Banks 05

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First up: Hue/Saturation edit.

Selective saturation of colour to draw out detail. You’ll notice in these examples that either of these images of Mount Banks in the rugged Grose Wilderness area of the Blue Mountains will work – the subject matter alone is worth the hike. However, you may be more used to the image on the bottom because of its colour saturation. What I have done here is applied a nominal increase in saturation to only the yellow channel  of the image. This appears to lift the detail in the foreground rock as well as accentuating the grass mid to background leading your eye virtually up Mount Banks.

 

Mt Banks 05

Next Image: Further Hue/Saturation edit.

What I have done here is take the image and used a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to slightly de-saturate all the colour in the scene. Then, using a reversed layer mask, I carefully brushed this desaturation back into the rock to take what I felt, the slightly gaudy yellow from the rock. I then selected only the blue/cyan channel of the scene and darkened it’s luminosity a touch to give more depth and mood to the sky.

 

 

 

 

Mt Banks 05

 

Final Concepts: Black and White or Moody Wash?

Once again there is no right one. The black and white version was converted from the original colour using a black/white image adjustment layer in cs6. I find this conversion method works for me because I have more control over toning individual colour channels. Here I’ve decreased the blue channel to give more drama to the cloud (blues tend to flatten when converted to greyscale) as well as decreasing the reds to give more definition to the edges of the rock while increasing the yellows to lift the highlights. (I’ll talk more about black/white conversions next week.)

In the image below, I’ve added a colour fill layer (something I don’t like to do that often to my own work but can admire when applied to others) and blended it with the original using an overlay method, dialling down the opacity considerably. The result ended up being very flat because of the added colour wash so to bring back the contrast I adjusted the luminosity of only the blue/cyan channel. The final look gives a very different atmosphere from the original.

Mt Banks 05

 

So what do you think? Colour or black and white?

At the end of the day it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Photo of the Month: Dec 2011


Lugging a tripod and a vest full of lenses through hip high wet grass can be quite a tiring task, especially when it’s in the wee hours of the morning, your pants are soggy from the wet grasses and it’s a cold autumn in the Hawkesbury. Yet there is no better hour to capture that quality of light when things “hang” suspended in time and every nuance of a subject can be detected. The only sounds are the distant morning calls of the water birds singing “good morning” to the sun as it ascends behind a soft, foggy veil. Thus was the attributes of this particular morning when I captured this almost three dimensional shot of a leaf looking like it’s stuck in gelatin for our article on the Hawkesbury Nepean River. Its bright autumn yellow was slighly subdued by the soft light and it was absolutely motionless on the surface of the water.

We have now made this image available for purchase in two sizes:               A4   $45.00

                                                                                                                                A3   $60.00

If you would like to own this image send an e-mail to:                                   info@deephill.com.au

or drop as a line to our postal address:                                                             Deep Hill Fine Art Media

                                                                                                                                PO Box 426

                                                                                                                                Springwood NSW 2777, Australia