The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 8,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 15 years to get that many views.
As a photo instructor, one of the things that I always pass on to my landscape/cityscape -pictorial photographers is keep an eye on the weather chart and when we get a slow moving high on the synoptic chart with some light southerly winds, then expect to have clear skies and great light in the morning and the afternoon.
And today it all come together, and I remembered why it is so great to be a photographer and have your eyes wide open for what ever the golden light brings to your lens.
We took the chance for an evening trip down to the Backpaddock. As luck would have it, (about time some might say), we found two pairs of red-caps and their offspring. The males both are hard at work with the young who are developing quite an independence and at one stage were all feeding together. To the angst of the two males who have territorial honour to uphold. So while their young happily fed, flew and chirped about, the two males did branch dancing and name calling.
The late evening sun was just rolling through the trees, and deep shadows everywhere, but from time to time it was a magic moment.
Also saw but didn’t photograph, the elusive White-throated Treecreeper about 60 metres in from the Map Shelter, so Ray will be pleased. It was on is own it seems, which is not so good. We were hoping for another small family to take off.
We also found one old tree with at least three Striated Pardalotes nesting. Very noisy.
Earlier in the year, Dorothy thought this photographing birds lark, might be a bit of fun and we started to look for a suitable camera. At first my choice would have been the Panasonic FZ150, as it filled most of the ‘must haves’. On looking about Nikon had released a super duper, little V1. This was light, interchangeable lenses and a larger sensor than the Panny.
It also had an adaptor that allowed it to enter the world of the big Nikon glass, and we thought that to be an advantage. But.
In spite of her best efforts to make it work, the frustration level was high. In the end we had to conclude that the little V1 was indeed super duper, but not a super duper bird photography camera. It would be great for travelling about the markets in SE Asia, boating along the waterways in merry old England. Snapping the kids at the backyard barby, using the clever face and animal recognition features to key in your dog’s birthday, so it would be recorded with each image (??) and the like. Maybe even a worthwhile real estate agent’s carry in camera. But for birds. Its for the birds.
Here are a few of the frustration points. (I know, I’ve heard them yelled out in the bush more than once)
1. Buttons and controls are too **@&&$& small. It’s true. Just try to do something in a hurry in the overcast dark forest and it becomes obvious.
2. Too many things are controlled by buttons that have multi multi multi functions. Nope she doesn’t stutter. Its true depending on which of the tiny buttons you are holding while you push another will depend on what is set or unset.
3. Too many real settings are hidden in menus. ISO and EV being two I can think of, but I do believe there are more.
4. Auto focus that has a mind of its own. Point it at the subject and it immediately is enamoured by something else in the scene, the background, the highlights, the waving branches, the big black truck. Anything but the subject. For an evaluative system it certainly is. But how about it evaluating what its pointed at? !! Now you’ve got to remember that birds sometimes perch on branches in trees, and trees have more than one branch. Which is where the V1 and its brothers and sisters over in the DSLR stable have a similar problem. Anything is more interesting than your subject, so the focus hunts and then avoids the subject. On this subject, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Nikon techs need to take the Canon techs to lunch and find out how a real auto-focus system works. OR Nikon should re-hire the team that did autofocus with the D2 and D200 series of cameras. At least they can grab a subject and hold on to it like a terrier. Rather than the namby pamby oh, I’ll just check out a few more things and if I like them better I’ll focus there system in the current stable.
5. Lenses are ok sharp. This is s non technical description of a lens that looks ok most of the time, but on closer examination of the image, 100%, (that’s not pixel peeping, it called checking focus), the image bears a strong resemblance to Mum’s old box brownie. (C’mon Nikon you can do better than that. No one is expecting 105mm micro Nikkor sharpness, but really it’s only a tiny chip. Or is it that the target audience for this wonder is unaware of what a ‘sharp’ image might look like. ) Don’t start me on Nikons Kit zoom lenses. Enough has been said.
6. Battery life is non-existent. We won’t venture out for a day without 3 fully charged batteries. And each of them will be flat within about 2 hours of being in the camera. This is a deal breaker.
7. “Oh, its too hot, I’ll just close down now- for an hour or two!!!!!” What? We photograph in the bush on hot days, 40 Celsius is not uncommon in a mid-summers day in Oz mate. What white coated technocrat dreamed up this one. Or is it only meant to be sold to people who photograph in 20 Celsius shopping malls? This was the final straw. I was watching a human being in total control, otherwise the V1 would have been sailing through the air to the other side of the forest.
Sooo after much angst. Well not really, but you read about that stuff in blogs all over, we decided – note the “We” in that sentence, very important for the next part of the post. We decided the Nikon V1 was staying home, and if it was really lucky it might just avoid a trip in the big green dumper.
Canon have a really interesting kit called SX50. It has a 50X times zoom up to 1200mm in the old 35mm way of looking at things. (Its all about Angle of View, but we don’t want to mess with the calculations here, so go with the marketing depts BS on this). Now Panasonic blasted out of the gate in about October with a FZ200. Only 600m of zoom but with an amazing F2.8 all the way. (the Canon does f 6.5 at the 1200mm spot. about 2 1/2 stops less light. Hmmm).
Rodger S of the Swallows in flight fame , “Swallows Are Us”, has been impressing with his images of Swallows in flight using the FZ150 and now the FZ200. See his Flickr set here. He also uses that super little Red-Dot sight, so there is no looking through the viewfinder trying to find the subject. It’s just point and shoot.
Da Dah!. One cha-ching later and we (remember “We” from the sentence above). were back in business, and back in the forest.
Ok, so its not perfect. At least I don’t think it is, as it doesn’t make cups of tea and put out the cat, but it does take sharp photos of birds. EASILY. And, it knows about focusing on the subject its pointed at. No discussions, no alternatives. Oh, the bird in the focus box. That’s it. Got it.
Thank you mr Panasonic.
Here are a few from the past few days. (C) Dorothy M J 2012.
They are all hand held. There is no additional software sharpening going on here. As out of the camera. She’s a photographer, not a computer guru.
Wagtails chicks is impressive enlarged.
Go on click on the image to get a larger view. You know you want to.
The high wind meant an awful day among the trees, so we declined to go out and robin hunt.
It did infact calm down after lunch and on the pretence of a cup of coffee ah? We first stopped of for coffee and a quick shop, and then on to the birds.
Going past the wagtail nest, it was obvious that nature had indeed taken its course and two of her young had flown from the nest, leaving three bewildered leftovers behind.
On the return journey we checked again and three had become two. So no doubt we’ll see an empty nest the next time round. Well done Mum!
On a sadder note, Jill lost her clutch. The high winds had bought down a large branch from a tree which had upended the nest tree in its wake. Not sign of any eggs, or young, and I suspect she only just hatched them yesterday to this morning.
It took me a little time to find the male, he was squabbling with the neighbours over territorial rights. And eventually we found Jill, none the worse for wear, and already being fed by Jack, and sitting in v shaped branches, checking out the view in the new housing estate. Hope she picks a more secure tree this time.
Meanwhile the pair next door, e.g. further up the forest, have started a new nesting programme, so their previous young must be well advanced. All a happening thing.
I’ve a book that I really like to read when I’m stuck at home, its called “What the Robin Knows” by Jon Young. His basic premise is that by knowing the various calls and habits of birds (he uses Robins, because in the US he has a backyard full of them and beginners can easily identify them.). In reality its about what birds do when they are birds and how a bit of watching can help work out some of the absolutely incredible stuff they do and to ask useful questions about the stuff that just seems so incomprehensible.
That we spend a lot of time with Robins, is in this case a co-incidence, but the principles he outlines apply in many respects. If I’m working with some territorial robins, (think breeding time), I can work out from their behaviour if someone, or something is approaching the area, long before I hear or see said thing/person.
Which leads me to today’s ramble. Very hot day, so we left in the twilight of the morning to get a good start down the track to check on the couple of pairs of Robins inside the former Bandicoot Big Brother House.
It took awhile, and some wonderful distractions from a pair of Striated Pardalotes feeding their young, and a family of Tree Martins zooming in at breakneck speed to feed their young.
Henny had the two young out hunting on their own. He was just a supervisor, flitting down to offer advice, perfect technique and in general discuss the finer points of robining.
Just to add to the interest a second pair has also been able to get off two more, although they are still in the rufous grey and brown of younger birds, so there was plenty of entertainment.
Henny and Penny’s young are quite advanced now, I would suspect he will look after them for a week or two more, then chase them off as Penny gets down to the serious business of laying the next batch. She already has two nests on the go, but I would also suspect they are just decoys if I could find them that easily.
I’ve never seen the young after they get moved along. They must several kilometers or more, as they don’t seem to be in the Woodlands area. I guess it’s a gene pool thing.
Dad said to lift my wings up to scare up the bugs.
Had a walk about with Richard and Andrew H, the other day. Not many photos, but we were each able to share bits of the park with one another, and the learning curve is good.
Down along one of the tracks, we’d been lucky enough to spot several pairs of Eastern Yellow Robins and I was keen to wander back over there with a bit of extra time and see if I could figure out what was really going on.
We started of with Jill and Jack, she is still sitting on the nest, and Jack is still the smart boy hunting about.
We had a quick look in some blackwood wattle saplings and out came a new (for us) Eastern Yellow Robin. It has a little white bib under its beak and did a bit of preening for the photograph.
We crossed another track and soon located a third pair who as it turns out have at least two young off the nest, and after quite a bit of patience and perseverance I managed to locate enough small movement to suggest a fledgling, and with a bit of moving about finally got a glimpse and a photo.
We’ve not worked with these birds before and it was evident they had no intention of letting us get to close to their pride and joy. Each appearance was through the thicket of blackwood saplings. and they lead us on a merry dance for quite awhile.
Down the track one of the wagtail pairs are now filling little mouths at a great rate. When it became evident to the female we where in the area she proceeded to push them down into the nest, an mission that is becoming increasingly difficult due to a) the small size of the nest, b) the size of her brood and c) the number of young she has in there and I think five in the reality.
Weather is always the big determining factor, and today was overcast, drizzle and high winds. Not great for birding, hopeless for photography and not much fun to be out and about in.
So rather than sit about playing with Flickr, I decided to clean up some of the gear and get ready for our trip to Goschen in January. (Actually its a family event thing, but I’m only seeing the birding part of it at the moment!).
I came across a Kenko TC1.4 that I’ver talked about before, but really haven’t used it since Mr An Onymous returned it after a borrow sometime back. About the same time I came across my old faithful, but now rarely used 80-400 VR Nikon Zoom. This is pretty old technology now, and if you believe everything you read no the net, about as sharp as my Mum’s old box camera. Which is sad really as by and large it does have some good optical qualities.
I’ve actually owned three of them! The first I destroyed in a very freaky accident, the second I traded in a fit of NAS (nikon acquire syndrome), for a nice 600mm f/5.6 manual focus lens. Now that was a lens. The third I traded over at Camera Exchange for a D300s, I had grown tired of. That lens is the subject of the current missive.
When I use it it doesn’t go near a tripod, won’t be seen on a monopod, and always has the lens mount clamp removed. I… wait for it. Hand hold it. Oh, the waves of agony that just rippled o’er the net.
Or I’ll prop it against something, like a tree, branch, car, sign or doorpost. Which brings us to the pics.
Given the light was pretty bad, and I felt in a playful mood, I wondered if the Kenko TC would fit and work on the 80-400 Surprise, it did, or as the old story of Cinderella is told, “It fid dit”. Out I went to try out the beastie.
Not much in the garden, check the opening sentence, day- miserable.
But after a little bit, a Spotted Turtle-Dove landed on the old Hills Hoist and I had something to photograph other then said hoist.
Now I didn’t expect much, but in fact its pretty sharp. Down side is the lens won’t talk to the camera properly via the Kenko’s poor translation skills, so the Aperture gets reported without the the 1.4 conversion Instead of F/8 minimum it reports f/5.6 And the EXIF data reports that too. Not sure it affects exposure or reports that incorrectly just assume it looks ok. (Thought, perhaps I could enter it as a manual lens in the lens data bank on the camera, and it might report correctly. Next rainy day.
Here’s the Turtle Dove, by the way, just in case your wondering, its… .Hand held. Not bad for really old VR technology held by a really old bloke.
There was a splash from the birdbath, and the local Common Blackbirds were bringing the young ones in for a bathe.
I took off the Kenko for this next shot, so its the 80-40 behaving as it should.
Now the old bloke pushed the lens up against the door frame for these, as it was pretty obvious they would all happen in much the same area. Wow, got the shutter value up to 1/200th. Took a number, but this one attracted me as the little bather has flicked its wet wings up and then snapped them down, just as the shutter released. A lovely crown of water drops resulted. Thanks bird.
So the old lens comes back for yet another round of applause a bow, curtsey and its exit stage right.
About a week or so ago, I got an email asking if I was going to the WTP and would I take a passenger. No worries, a chance to go to the WTP and have company was too much to pass up.
My new friend LynnTse (Lindsay to his Aussie mates!), turned up at the station, and we set off in what can only be described as great weather.
LynneTse is from Singapore and has a page over on Flickr
So I took the job of car driver, and tour guide and we soon found ourselves with birds to the left and the right, as you do down along the WTP tracks.
I spent most of the time working out where to position the car for him to get worthwhile pics, Dorothy played Spotter (and she is quite adept at said skill), and Lindsay, well he just burned his way through memory cards.
In the end we had Black Falcons, Spotted Harrier, Swamp Harriers, more Swamp Harriers, a family of Whistling Kites, Brown Falcons, more Swamp Harriers, Black-shouldered Kite -young and old, Swamp Harriers and wide range of waders. (didn’t find the elusive Broadbilled Sandpiper).
Needless to say it’s hard to do the driving and pointing thing, and take photos, so I amused myself by filling in some gaps on the more usual suspects.
Once again we all agreed over coffee at the Highway Lounge at Werribee that the WTP is for bird watchers and photographers, and those who like to escape once in awhile to a quiet spot, ” A truly magical place”.
The morning had some beaut soft rain, to cool things down, and we abandoned any idea of going to the park. But by midmorning the rain had cleared and we decided to go, and worry about lunch on the way home.
So down to the Eastern Yellow Robins, he is still hard at work, and she is still sitting tight on the nest. I’d have thought by now that we’d be able to get a glimpse of hatchlings, but she seems as determined as ever to sit.
Also came across a pair of wagtails hard at work with feeding their hungry little mouths.
Not to be outdone the Red-capped Robins were also hard at work, and Henny and Penny were a little less stressed today, so I eventually found one of the young. Now well grown, with a nicely developed tail, it is still being kept in the higher branches and came out for a few minutes to be feed.
Then Henny did some hunting across the old downed trees, and sat for a few minutes with the wind blowing his feathers. They are black under all that red.
Probably the most impressive of the day however were a pair of Eastern Shrike-tits that came hunting through the trees, pulling bark and poking about in all sorts of crevices. It’s not too often that I get a glimpse, let alone an opportunity for a shot out in the open, but my luck held long enough for the focus to grab.
Then to top it all off, we saw a White-throated Treecreeper across the open ground heading up one tree and then moving to the base and up another, much to far to photograph. But I was happy as my mate Ray has been wondering about the whereabouts of the Treecreepers and we hadn’t seen them since before the dreaded Banicoot Big Brother house was locked off. That did indeed put a smile on my face, and hopefully she’s not on her own and maybe has young somewhere in there. More to see.
It could be a tale that verges on the Burke and Wills. We’d been checking out the Yellow Robins, and I’d taken down the tripod and on the way back we decided on a late lunch at the shopping plaza.
As we climbed through and over the fence area to the car, I leaned the tripod against a fence post to hold the fence wire for Dorothy to slip under. Then I got over, we loaded the gear into the car, and went for lunch, and then home.
Meanwhile of course, the poor old tripod was bemoaning its fate at having been left behind.
A couple on a red Landcruiser, passed by and then backed up and picked up the said tripod. Realising some fool had left it behind they left a little note on the fence to call.
By the time, I’d unpacked the car and worked out my error they had taken tripod home hoping that someone would call.
When I went back of course, the fence post didn’t have a friend leaning against it. But as I was looking for a tripod, I didn’t notice the notice about the where-about of poor tripod. It was a bit like the “DIG” tree. Burke and Wills would have been proud of my double ineptitude.
Dismayed, I went on my way, chatted to a couple of ranger types and some council cleanup guys, but No they hadn’t seen it, and yep, things disappear around here very quickly. More downcast and forlorn looks from me.
The following day, while shopping we bumped into Andrew’s, (he of the great blog and Flickr sets), wife and explained I’d misplaced it, but didn’t give any details for by now I was beyond hope of ever recovering it.
Andrew was taking a walk on Thursday down the same area, and as he crossed the fence, found a note taped to a fence post, which said “found item, phone.”
He rightly put two and a tripod together and dropped me a note with the number.
Phone call, instant happiness, and a quick trip retrieved my very wayward tripod. Overjoyed at being reunited it probably purred all the way home.
Thank you to some lovely folk who had the foresight to leave the note, and to give my poor old tripod a bed and breakfast for a couple of nights, and to eagle eyed Andrew whose actions retrieved the phone number for me.
An all’s well that ends well story.
Here’s the fence post note.
Today was going to be hot. So we ventured out early, only wanted to look at one pair of Eastern Yellow Robins, Dorothy has named them “Jack” and “Jill”, so now we have it.
The hot wind was racing through the trees even early in the morning, and the gums gave patches of cool or hot depending on the shade in the area, the hot sun being captured in the open areas along the track.
Jill is still hard at work on the nest, we don’t go there by mutual arrangement. Jack on the other hand was obviously trying his best to fill her up, while it was relatively cool and steamed back and forth to the nest area.
After about an hour or so he must have been exhausted, I saw him take a really big grub, and he flew over my shoulder and landed on the tree behind, then gulped the grub down, preened a bit, and sat. Then I noticed his eye lid come down and I think he had a little nap.
The branch he was on was in the shade but the highwinds in the canopy opened up areas among the leaves for the light to come down. And I had a portrait session on my hands. Light on the background, light on the top of the bird, the side, balanced evenly between foreground and background.
For once the D2x and the 500 mm lens agreed on something and held the focus the entire time.
Here are a few selections just to show the lighting effects.
Jack then moved to another branch in more shade, settled down on his haunches and took a well earned break from his modelling session. Such a great bird.
I also did a bit of scouting around further on, and to my delight found a another pair of birds. I think these might have been the helpers in the earlier nest attempts. They seem to have settled down on their own, and he was feeding her, so I suspect a nest is going in there too. Time will tell.
Just wait for the family portrait with Jill and the Kids.
Neither of us was too excited about getting out of bed early this morning. We’ve had a week of days out with the birds, and just the thought of one more early morning was getting to be a bit much, so when the alarm clock ‘quacked’ into life (what else do you think I’d choose for alarms?), I hit the ‘off’ button rather than the snooze.
We figured some nice afternoon light would be good and ventured out to the back paddock. (formerly Bandicoot Big Brother House), and went down to sit in the area where two robins Henny and Penny had been working last year. Luckily enough they turned up after what can only be described as a long wait. (About two Cuppa’s worth of wait).
Spotted the Little Eagles taking the young ones, (at least two) out for a test flight, with much calling and zooming up and down in the lovely aftertnoon breeze. As I had the camera all set up for close up robin pics, but the time I got it pointed in the right direction, then I realised, the 1.7 TC was on, and I couldn’t get a bird in the frame, then I figured the focus activation was incorrect and had to fix that, then sort out the autofocus points, and by all this time, the Eagles, had gotten tired of waiting and had gone off for a coffee or something.
When Henny did turn up in his lovely red attire, it was obvious he was feeding young and a little bit of waiting, eg, another cuppa, I discovered he’d buried the young one among the leaves in the top canopy of a nearby gum tree. It was swaying back and forth in the breeze, but really well hidden, and so no photos there.
Penny, she of the lovely orange chest feathers, also put in an appearance. She was feeding a second and third fledgling and I managed to track down one of them. Her technique was quite different. She had one ensconced in a tree about my head height among a lot of thin spindly branches. It didn’t have the same wind problem, and seemed quite content to nod off between feeding session. She seemed to feed it for about 10 minutes and then leave it for 15-20 minutes, presumably to feed its sibling, and to have a bit of a rest. The other eluded me, although I could hear its calls for dinner.
At first they were a bit concerned about us, but Penny dropped into a tree about a metre from me, and after a few seconds decided I was either no harm or no interest and flew off to resume her duties.
So it looks as though she has managed a clutch of at least three. And the threeways birds have a couple, and no doubt now that Lockie and Primrose, where ever they are, have had a clutch, so the numbers are starting to mount up. There is still enough season for them to get another clutch in before February.
Just to make life interesting, on the way back to the car, Will.I.am. O’Scarlet came by and gave a good demonstration of his hunting skills, and I suspect therefore his family may be increasing.