Evening run down to the Western Treatment Plant

***  Now I’ve made 200 posts in WordPress ***** Not a record, but will try to be a bit more consistent posting in 2014.

After the rain, the unpacking, the relocation, and all the attendant extra work, it was about time we had some refresh time out among the birds.

The weather people had predicted fine weather, light winds and that lovely ‘golden light’ beloved of all true landscape photographers, and the odd bird photographer or two.
Poor old Mr An Onymous had other things to attend to in the family department, so we packed up in the middle of the afternoon and headed out for the evening.  Nice now to be only a few minutes drive to the Point Wilson Road.

We went out to the Murtcaim(n) outlet along the spit.  The tide was outgoing, but there wasn’t a lot of activity.  Just two Whiskered Terns. (used to be called Marsh Terns, but after all these guys have whiskers, so Whiskered they are! – its mostly because they have white cheek feathers, so its not about whiskers at all so it seems).  They were both hunting in quite close to shore, because the tiny fish were feeding in along the outflow waters.   I soon worked out the pattern of their hunting and how they would swing down the beach about 100m and then work back to the outflow. Out, and then back down the beach again.  Set up the tripod, with the Wimberley Gimbal, and just enjoyed the antics.  The new 300mm f/2.8 works well at those distances and I soon got into a routine of the swinging and diving of the little birds.

After discovering a new found interest in Tern photography what happened next was pretty special.  Three Caspian Terns literally bolted down the beach line, crying out and looping around each other. They got to the outflow and began the most amazing performance of dance and acrobatics.  Its often easy to find them sitting basking in the sun, but the size of the wings outspread, and the speed of turn and rush at one another was just breath taking.  That it happened so close only made it all the more exhilarating.   Suddenly my interest in Tern photography skyrocketed. I’ve always appreciated the work of Rob Melone on Flickr. He has some of the best Tern pics and he seems to make it look so easy.   But now I really appreciate the work more.

See him here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/rjmelone/with/9650727418/

Next stop was the bird hide, and we found another two Whiskered Terns at work in a shallow pond.  Again once I’d figured out the pattern they seemed to repeat it, so photography was pretty exciting.

Whistling Kites and Black Kites in abundance on the road to The Borrow Pits, kept us busy as the sun began to take on its gold glow.  Looking good.

To make the day, we found a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles down along the beach line, but they were gone before we could get close.

On the way out we found a Brown Falcon sitting in the sunshine preening and waiting.   It didn’t seem in any hurry to move on.  We were going to make a run up to Ryan’s Swamp, but stopped at the old Pumping Station.  And a Spotted Dove decided to sit on the roof ridge.  Highlighted in the golden sun against the old tiles, it was pretty much too much to ignore.  So I was working out the best way to place the bird in the frame, when it jumped.  Headed straight down the roof line in my direction.  And at the same time a Brown Falcon, claws down, came over the ridge line. It must have worked out a sneak attack strategy.  I didn’t see it coming, and EE was further around on the road way and didn’t see it coming either.  It must have low flown to get speed, then lifted straight up over the building to snatch the hapless dove.  In the case, it was a millisecond too slow, or the dove was a millisecond faster. I now had a viewfinder filled with Brown Falcon, but by the time I’d pressed the shutter, it had already raised the claws and was looking for an exit strategy.  I wonder if I’d not been there would it have pursed the dove.

Within about 15 seconds I’d regained my composure, the flacon was 100m away, and… The dove calmly landed back on the ridge line and proceeded to preen in the evening sunshine!

Not a bad way to spend a evening.

Brown Falcon in the afternoon light on The Spit.
Brown Falcon in the afternoon light on The Spit.
Whiskered Tern
Whiskered Tern
Got one.   A profitable strike
Got one. A profitable strike
Three Caspian Terns out for a day's play.
Three Caspian Terns out for a day’s play.
Close enough for a closeup
Close enough for a closeup
Whistling Kite touchdown.
Whistling Kite touchdown.
Whiskered Tern hunting on a small pool.
Whiskered Tern hunting on a small pool.
Too far, too dark, too late.  Still its a White-bellied Sea-eagle, with food.
Too far, too dark, too late. Still its a White-bellied Sea-eagle, with food.
Preening in the burnishing light. Brown Falcon unconcerned by our presence
Preening in the burnishing light. Brown Falcon unconcerned by our presence

Day out at the Art Centre

From time to time the Victorian National Gallery has some great photographic work on display.

Currently they are showing work from Edward Steichen.  http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/exhibitions/edward-steichen-and-art-deco-fashion

Famous for his years of work as fashion photographer for Vanity Fair and Vogue.  It might be said that he and the magazines  changed both the way fashion consumed and fashion sets the pace.  Steichen’s work certainly opened up new vistas for the up and coming dressers of the 20s, 30s and 40s.

So Mr An Onymous and I took the pilgrimage.   Now, its true that we’ve moved house recently, so I got the added adventure of a bus trip (with formula one racing driver, Sebastian Vettel in disguise) Made it to the Werribee Rail Station in what can only be described as World Record Time, and still had a couple of minutes to wait of the Early train. Good work Seb.

An was awaiting at Newport Station so we journeyed in for a day of photographic excellence.  Both armed with FZ200 Pannys.  No one can say we aren’t Individuals.

The Edward Steichen Exhibition is quite amazing.   The prints are probably contact prints from the 8 x 10 inch sheets he would have used.  There is a short video dub of an old ‘movie tone’ style news report on his work, and it shows the high Energy he pumped into a even a simple shoot.    He worked a lot with models who were movie stars of the time.  Now if you’ve watched the odd (and some of them are very odd) old pre-talkie movie, most of the actresses of the time were, well, dumpy.  Perhaps a little on the plump side,  or as might be said. “Dowdy”.    Steichen and Vogue set about to change that look.  He preferred to work with dancers. Lithe slim creatures who not only could stand around, but could drape over sets, and allow clothes to look stylish.  It becomes obvious as you sees the dates change that his styles both of work and interpretation change.  From very over elegant, opulent is the word, interiors to quite simple out door settings, boat trips, and the horse race track,  become the norm.  All places that his audience would be seen or would want to be seen.  And the clothes changed to reflect that ‘outdoor’ look.    There is also quite a large collection of dresses and clothing on display and again its possible to track how those styles change.

One of  the big leaps is the single piece bathing cossie for the swimming conscious.   No longer the baggy unsightly, but bold and streamlined.  Easily able to appeal to the fashion conscious.

While this exhibition features his work from the Fashion industry, and the images appear to be owned by the publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair, Steichen was also in demand as a portrait photographer.  Some of these too are on display.   One famous work that is not there is the risqué bordering on sensual picture he made of dancer Therese Duncan in Greece.  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Steichen_-_wind_fire_-_Thérèse_Duncan_on_the_Acropolis,_1921.jpg

Therese was adopted child and pupil of the famous Isadora Duncan, and Steichen and Duncan made a series of images around the Parthenon, in 1921.

Personally I think his most famous feat and what would prove to be a great step in the march of photographic art occurred while he was Picture Editor  for “US Camera” magazine, as photo-judge, he selected for the 1943 US Camera Annual, a picture by Ansel Adams.  It is titled “Moonrise , Henandez, New Mexico.” 

This stunning landscape set the pace for landscape work for many years to come.

His other great contribution was the “Family of Man” project of the early 1950s.
Many of the images were the work of what would become household names in photographic circles.   There was a book produced to support it, and here we are 60 or more years later, and the works still hold such impact and the people immortalised in silver/gelatine are still able to speak across time.

Family of Man

If you’re in Melbourne and have several hours, a peek at Edward Steichen and his genius is time so well spent.

In the foyer of the Gallery is a rather interesting installation. It looks like a huge half sphere made from translucent buckets. The light inside the dome is simple amazing. Soft, non-directional, yet full of sparkle.  A great place for portraits. There is also a range of large mirrors with colour tones, and by careful standing various photo possibilities open up.  Two old blokes spent 1 5mins or more making some great images and forgetting the world, and being engrossed in the wonderful art that the simple process of photography can encourage.

The dome in the foyer
The dome in the foyer
More of the dome
More of the dome
Bromelia inside the buckets
Bromelia inside the buckets
Closeup from the dome
Closeup from the dome
Space and colour against line and shape
Space and colour against line and shape
Detail of a huge pane of glass accidentally broken but yet to be replaced.
Detail of a huge pane of glass accidentally broken but yet to be replaced.
Photography for the self-concious.
Photography for the self-concious.
See, never let blokes alone for too long with mirrors.
See, never let blokes alone for too long with mirrors.

Looking around Eynesbury Grey Box forest

The sun came out!   After such a long couple of weeks with very average to almost depressing weather, the sun came out.

And so did the cameras, the themos and the car. And soon we were headed to Eynesbury.
For those who’ve missed part of the backstory, we’ve relocated to a new Villa in Tarneit, near Werribee.  Woodlands is quite the drive for us now, so won’t get anywhere near the same coverage as  when we were local.

Eynesbury is a new housing development out near Melton. Before it was a housing development it was part of a rich pastoral holdings from the late 1800s. Over the years, things have changed and eventually a development group acquired the land and among other things built a golf course in the middle of the forest and have set about developing the estate for golfing aficionados. Its working. Around 600 units have been occupied or in the process of same.

Part of the old property was  largish Grey Box stand which was left untouched as it offered a place for the sheep to shelter after sheering and dipping, etc.  The developers have tried to maintain it and there is quite an ‘environmental’ approach to forest.

Its been the home of some very interesting birds and now at least they are relatively well sheltered.   So we went to take a look.  If we can work the way we did in the Grey Box at Woodlands it might be a fair substitute, less of course the amazing Red-capped and Eastern Yellow Robins.  Still time will tell.

We didn’t have to get too far from the car to find the forest filled with White-browed Woodswallows and some Dusky’s.  Any number of Brown Treecreepers, and a pair of Little Eagles, who raised the anger of the Woodswallow who mobbed the poor eagles relentlessly.

A Brown Goshawk, crashed through the tree canopy and again the ever vigilant Woodswallows were in attack mode.  The speed of the Goshawk and the power of its attack was actually quite phenomenal.  Made me respect them even more, and there would be no escape for an unwary photographer who got in the way of one of these very powerful birds.   I thought it must have taken a hapless Woodswallow, and then thought it might have missed and taken the branch instead, but when I looked at the only image I got, it was a large skink of some sort. Chased by any number of Woodswallows, it disappeared with as much speed and agility as it had appeared.

One of the highlight birds at Eynesbury is the Diamond Firetail.  These little birds travel in small flocks, and seem to feed in the open areas under the Grey Box.   I found a couple, but they seemed very wary of me, and I didn’t get very close.

A second very important bird is the Speckled Warbler, now there is a couple at Woodlands, but they do take a bit of tracking down.    At Eynesbury, it would seem they are going to be just as elusive as I only saw one from a distance on a stump.

While I did a quick scout along a track and Kangaroo pad,  EE stayed by a pool of water on the roadway.     Of course, while I was gone she managed some great views and shots of first a number of Firetails coming in to bathe and then a few shots of a Speckled Warbler in some low wattle scrub.     Oh!!!!

So we thought as the sun got hotter, it was time to go, and down to the Golf-club Cafe we went to enjoy a late lunch and a coffee.  They have a  Lamb and Mint pie on the menu, so armed with that bit of info alone, it would be enough to entice me back.

White-browed Woodswallow
White-browed Woodswallow
Little Eagle avoiding a direct attack from Woodswallow
Little Eagle avoiding a direct attack from Woodswallow
Diamond Firetail
Diamond Firetail
White-browed Woodswallow and very exposed nest.
White-browed Woodswallow and very exposed nest.
Brown Treecreeper
Brown Treecreeper
Brown Goshawk beating a hasty retreat from Woodswallows in hot pursuit
Brown Goshawk beating a hasty retreat from Woodswallows in hot pursuit

 

Rainy Day Werribee, still a pleasure to be out

My mate Lynzwee  (Lindsay to his Aussie mates) from Singapore. (see his Flickr site for great images),  dropped me a note and said, be down your way, and how about going to the WTP.  Now, its probably common knowledge that we don’t need much of an invite, so we fixed a day in his travel plans and waited.

But the weather turned particularly nasty.   Lots of squalls, and incessant rain. Overcast as.  And not so great for photography. But give Linds his dues,  the text Message arrived, “On train to Werribee, see you soon”. So we grabbed all the wet weather gear.   Drizabone, we love you.

Great to see him again, and chat about things, and to my surprise he’d packed a “Black Rapid” camera strap. These are the Rolls Royce of camera straps, and I was very pleased indeed to attach it to the 300mm and get use out of it right away.

Try however as we might with the rain pitching down in what can only be described  as “Biblical Proportions”,  we sloshed along the road to see what was findable. Needless to say not much.  Catch of the day goes to EE (again!) for a very dejected looking Spotted Harrier hiding behind a bush from the wind.  Not the rain, as it was going through everything.   So, See bird. Stop car- without hitting anything, (cryptic joke for those who follow along), and by the time I was able to find the bird in the viewfinder, Lindsay already had 15 shots off and EE was not far behind.  I just got the lens poked past both their heads, and Spotty took to the air.

Further on, we found a couple of Black-shouldered Kites, in a state of drenchedness.  “drookit” I am reliably informed is the Scottish word that best describes the condition.  At first it was thought they were a pair, but on closer inspection one had decidedly ginger brown colours on head and chest, and would almost certainly be a juvenile.

Onwards, the intrepid party sloshed.  Most waders were way out on the edge of the tide, and not seeming to notice the rain. Given off course, we had to get out of nice warm car and walk out 100m or more, we moved on.  Then it was a Swamp Harrier on a post.  I lay claim to  having spotted it first, but really in the rain, no one cared.  It was on my side of the car, so I got a couple of frames off before it too headed into the downpour.
We also located about 8 or more Ruddy Turnstones on  the road up to The Borrow Pits. And then to make Lindsay happy a pair of Whistling Kites meandered past in between showers.

With skies ‘Lowering” by the minute it was obvious, well, it seemed that way, that those dark clouds portended more biblical rain, and we took an early mark and off to the Highway Lounge to dry out, grab a bite to eat, and do what photographers do best in this situation. Talk.

Lindsay was soon on the train and we were soon home to look at the images of the day.

Got it,  Great Egret makes fishing look easy
Got it, Great Egret makes fishing look easy
Red-capped Plovers
Red-capped Plovers
Swamp Harrier sitting in the rain.
Swamp Harrier sitting in the rain.
Golden-headed Cisticola
Golden-headed Cisticola
Sitting out of the wind. The rain penetrated anyway
Sitting out of the wind. The rain penetrated anyway
Black-shoulered Kite very "drookit"
Black-shoulered Kite very “drookit”