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The Gearzette


- December 01, 2023

Cinematographer Alexandra Adoncello has travelled the world in an effort to create ‘purposeful and emotionally charged’ content. When not working, she likes to venture into nature in her expedition-ready Defender 110. Front Runner recently caught up with her between assignments.   ​

© Alexandra Adoncello

Why do you like to spend as much time as you can in nature? ​

It’s not easy for me to switch off or relax deep enough into a consciously rested state without being preoccupied with the millions of daily distractions. To combat this, frequent exposure to nature, especially those solitude jaunts, is a simple but sure journey into self-discovery. Sometimes, it reminds me not to be so complacent but to step outside my comfort zone and undertake challenges. Perhaps it's undertaking an adrenaline-fuelled extreme sport or sitting calmly in an icy cold lake. In these moments, my senses are heightened, my system is shocked, and I discover many new things. ​

© Alexandra Adoncello

What are you hoping to achieve when you press record or depress the shutter button on your camera? ​

There is aesthetics, and then there’s purpose. It’s one thing to create imagery that’s beautiful, alluring, striking or impressive; there’s a platform and an audience for this kind of content, think high fashion, editorial, panoramic landscapes, or anything IG-appropriate, but it’s another thing to create content that’s imbued with a rich story, that has a message to deliver or a new perspective to consider. I strive to create a story with meaning and a message. Neither aesthetics nor purpose is necessarily more important than the other; they have a beautiful relationship together. ​

How does one juggle being both a cinematographer and photographer?​

Cinematography has always been primary for me - it’s where my heart is. However, I’ve a background in analogue stills, having spent my high school lunchtime breaks in the darkroom experimenting with developing and printing. This naturally grew to digital stills, though my passion for motion was deeply seated while studying at film school and later completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Majoring in Film). I went on to work on some big Australian feature films and TV series, where I uncovered the joy of being on set with a group of like-minded creatives, each with unique skills who come together to carry out their distinct jobs to create something much larger and more impressive than the smaller parts alone. ​

I’ve personally found that it’s tricky to juggle both photography and cinematography, especially simultaneously. I try to avoid engaging in a project and wearing both hats. These days, I put all my time and energy into cinematography and keep photography for personal projects or specific clients I’ve observed over the years. ​

You’ve travelled around the world with your work. Tell us about your favourite 2 or 3 places and why they are special to you. ​

© Alexandra Adoncello

St Moritz, Switzerland ​

St. Moritz holds a long-standing automotive tradition going back to the late 1920s when the famous Bernina Gran Prix ran across the high-elevation Bernina Pass, a competition of skill and daring taking place on one of the most beautiful driving roads in the world. However, since the 1960s, when circuit racing was banned in the country, it became increasingly difficult to host events like the Gran Prix. ​

Only in recent years did a group of passionate local motorists and collectors band together to bring the historic hill climb back to life. Drivers now face a challenging 3.4 miles of winding tarmac that cuts through the mountains and involves a 1,500-foot climb over the course of 50 tight corners that tests even the most seasoned Alpine motorists. The event has the most varied field of participants from across the globe. It’s a melting pot of old and new with vintage Formula cars, Italian classics, and vintage English models. Where else can one find a Ford GT40, Lancia Stratos, and a Jaguar D-Type compete against each other? I had the pleasure of being invited to shoot the 5th iteration of the event on analogue film. ​

© Alexandra Adoncello

​Tasmania, Australia ​

In 2020, I shot a documentary featuring six bike builders and their hunger for motorcycle adventure in its purest form as they took to Tasmania to traverse Australia’s most beautiful, rugged terrain both on and off-road. They were living off the back of their motorcycles, a journey that pushed bikes and riders to their limit, forging a bond out of necessity to make it to the end of the road. ​

Six motorbikes, a support car, a camera van, and a skeleton crew. We were there for every moment of the journey, camping in our swags, getting caught in wild weather conditions, and testing our patience with side-of-the-road vehicle repairs – an epic adventure. ​

Simpsons Gap, Northern Territory, Australia ​

Last year, ABC launched a brand campaign in line with the celebrations to mark the broadcaster’s 90th year. Focused on connecting Australians, the creative content pieces showcased and highlighted the different communities the ABC engages with across its services. Filmed in 4 locations across the country, 90 people come together in each location to perform the iconic ‘I am Australian’ song and, in each scenario, uniquely create the ABC logo. My role was to capture the logo's hero aerials, which was carried out with a dual-operation heavy-duty drone. ​

We travelled to some incredible places, capturing inspiring individuals. Still, the one that stood out the most was Simpsons Gap in the Northern Territory—led by renowned choir director Morris Stuart, 90 choir singers, including Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir members, performed on Arrernte Country, singing a stirring rendition of the song in Pitjantjatjara language. Phenomenal is an understatement, as it gave me goosebumps. 

© Alexandra Adoncello

Why a Defender 110 in a country where the Land Cruiser and Nissan Patrol dominate? ​

Few vehicles summon the romance and nostalgia that the classic Land Rover Defender does. The boxy, burly off-roader has stood for freedom and independence for decades, epitomising the appeal of the outdoors. Sure, if you put it beside a Land Cruiser or a Nissan Patrol, it won’t nearly compare in power or performance, but it’s not just about specs for me. When Land Rover ceased manufacturing them in 2016, they became appealing to me. For me, it’s a lifestyle and an unconditional love affair. ​

© Alexandra Adoncello

You’ve accessorised your Defender (Django). Talk us through what you’ve added and why.​

I’ve kitted out Django with various accessories to accommodate work and play. First and foremost is a roof top tent for all my overnight or multi-day stay needs. It’s set up on Front Runner’s Quick-Release System, allowing me to remove the tent and mount it to my garage wall when I don’t need it. I've got a rear ladder and step to get to the tent or onto my Slimline II Roof Rack. The rear cargo area is where I keep both my camera equipment and camping goods, all neatly stored in labelled Flat Packs within Wolf Pack Pro storage boxes, which can be carried out and interchanged with ease, depending on the needs of each trip. ​

When I’m on the road, especially while working, it’s easy to get carried away. Staying hydrated is paramount to productivity and performance. I’ve got a 42L Pro Water Tank with the Extension Bracket on the rack, and when I’m camped up for more extended periods, I’ve also got Dometic’s 11 L Hydration jug with the powered faucet; it's highly portable and gets moved around a lot depending on the intended use.​

Which accessory is your favourite and why? ​

The most significant and recent addition to my set-up has been the Dometic CFX45 fridge/freezer. Gone are the days of buying bags of ice from the service store only for it to melt quickly on a hot summer day. It’s a complete game changer having cold drinks permanently ready and a neat, dry place to store abundant food for meals while away. 

© Alexandra Adoncello

Tell us about some of your most memorable local adventures. ​

Last year, my girlfriend and I headed to Queenstown, New Zealand, for a week of snowboarding, followed by a fortnight touring the South Island in a camper van. After shredding down the mountain on boards for a week, we took it to new heights and decided to do some paragliding. ​

We arranged with a local operator to get the highest chairlift up Coronet Peak. We continued walking further up the snow-covered mountain before doing a tandem paraglide off the backside of the slope just as the sunset. This was such a surreal experience. You’ll have to follow my adventures on Instagram (@lexcello) to see and hear more memorable stories.