The Big Issue : Edition 458
12 THEBIGISSUE9–22MAY2014 RICKY Autumn on Auto “Winter is stalking you, and what sort of life is that? Dark when you leave in the morning, dark when you come home.” I RECENTLY BOUGHT a camera. I thought it would be good for doing things like taking photos. It is a marvellous machine; a stately piece of architecture, comprised of sleek curves, expanding and shrinking tubes, a lens, probably; dials and numbers, definitely. Not to mention the bewildering array of acronyms that have suddenly entered my life: ISO, AF- S, AF-F, MF, AE-L, NEF. There’s also some worrying terms that make me wonder if I’m taking photos or taking out enemy insurgents: Face-Priority AF, Subject-Tracking AF. You can adjust settings to M, P, AP, SP or any one of a hundred little symbols normally associated with Egyptian tombs or the Wingdings font. “You need to learn about aperture, and shutter speed”, someone who sounded like they knew what they were talking about said, before delving into the realm of philosophical, metaphysical jargon. “It’s all a trade-off – the more light you let in the less shutter speed you need, unless it’s fast-moving...you can always adjust your ISO.” Or something. I experimented and found a great setting called ‘Auto’. I also found a willing and often returned-to subject: Australia. It was only two columns ago that I was celebrating my birthday with a pastie and a takeaway coffee at a caravan park on the banks of Broken Creek – late-summer’s morning light warming the wings of the cockatoos; and for the humans, T-shirt weather at 8am. What a difference some rain makes. Three days of rain, actually. Back in the suburbs summer squawked its last and was heading north. The weather bureau reported that “quite an active system” was heading south. We got a good old- fashioned drenching. The parched lawn guzzled it down then begged for more. It got more. Finally, the quite active system moved on and left behind the most welcome arrival of autumn. We woke to a freshly painted world. You should have seen the nature strips. You probably did. For months they looked like a mangy dog’s back: patchy brown and flea- ridden. And then – overnight, all along the street – the grass had shot up, bulging with green blades the size of oven fries. I flicked the camera to Selective Colour Mode, zoomed in on the intense green and bagged a beauty. Elsewhere, the change of the seasons follows the usual pattern. Cricket pitches snowed under by grass, goal posts of their chosen variety stand to attention. The rich, leafy suburbs show off, dropping fat leaves on the footpath to be crunched by bicycle tyres. The clocks in south- eastern Australia can’t tell day from night as we transition back to real-time. Dark mornings, then a sudden burst of light as the clocks rewind, then the slow sink back into darkness, like the Titanic breaking in half then suddenly righting itself, before resuming its demise. Hello long, dark evenings: they just hang there until bedtime – quiet and sinister. Getting up in the morning is hazardous to your health, with coldness beating at the walls, waiting for you outside. Hankies get a good honking during the morning rush, dripping umbrellas feed puddles in doorways. Sanity lies in keeping your towel dry. Winter is stalking you, and what sort of life is that? Dark when you leave in the morning, dark when you come home. We scour the calendar for any sighting of a public holiday, anything to look forward to. Bali seems a good option. Got no money? Join the club. Take solace in soup. My grandma cooks a batch that feeds the house for a week. But we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. ’Tis only May. The view from behind the camera’s viewfinder is grand. Rain goes rural. Click go the shears, but also the shutter, capturing patchwork Australia, rain on the sheep’s back. A vast, monstrous, tortured land, plundered and hacked, now glistening and squinting as the shower clears and the dying sun sends shards of lemony light through rising steam. Best captured on the only camera setting made specifically for a season: Autumn Colours. » Ricky French (@frenchricky) is a writer, traveller and paparazzo of suburban nature strips.