Saturday Evening Post #14: Looking Forward, Looking Back

Noted Australian country singer Slim Dusty, wrote a song “Looking forward, looking back”.

It is often used at country funerals as one of the tunes played during the service, and if it’s like the funerals I attend when we travel back up to the family acres for such an event, usually accompanied by at least one “Truck Drivin'” song as well.

But no such use here.  “I’ve come a long way down the track”.  Yes, dear reader, its time for the annual introspective, retrospective “How’s the photography going, and whither away in the new year”.

Which is why Looking Forward is going to have a little Looking Back.

After nigh on three years, I’ve finally made a break from Aperture 3. My foto database of preference.  And have, with some trepidation moved to the ‘dark side’, and settled on Lightroom for the management.
Not I can tell you without, a fair degree of angst.  Once bitten… etc. So the past few weeks have been amalgamating all the various photo sets into one large ‘Cataloge’ as Lr calls it.

One of the first advantages, that I had lost after the demise of AP3 was all my images are together at long last.  Need a Black Swan, quick search, there they all are.  Need a series of Black-shouldered Kite, not a problem. How about all the shots from Eynesbury.  All the delights of the best of database search and I have to say that is something I’ll not be looking back on.

Which leads to the post the other day on the best 100 photo quotes.  Did you find any you nodded in agreement with?

Did you work out my second pick?  Well you only had 99 options.
In the end, this one got the next to best.

No. 76  You cannot possibly hit the shutter without leaving a piece of you in the image.Joe Buissink

But, I do have to say that if that had not been there, then  a quote from David DuChemin would have been my next pick. (PS it’s not on the list)
“Focusing a lens is not the same as focussing our attention!”
And that leads me to another quote from David, and the point of the title of our post.

“Make an image that is so compelling, so captivating, that no one is going to notice your technique. If Noise  is all the people see, Noise is the least of your Problems.  In years to come, no one is going to extoll your excellent use of ISO.”

Which segues nicely to the header image, and the preamble
*HaH, told you this was going to be the disjointed annual ramble*

Looking back. While amalgamating the databases earlier this week, I came across the series with the Kestrel chicks from a few years back.
This was shot with a Nikon D200, and a manual focus, yep, you young’uns will have to look that up, manual focus  600mm f/5.6 Nikon lens. Ken Rockwell shows it here.   It still rates as the all time sharpest Nikon lens I’ve owned. (and I’ve owned a few in me time). I still have the TC 301 2x teleconverter in a box.  It made a super tele 1200mm f/11 lens.  With only a minimal loss of sharpness.  Just hard on the old D200 to see the focusing. So I used to have to watch the little ‘green dot’ focus point in the lefthand side of the viewfinder.  Too cool

Quite a backstory with this one. I had overlooked it initially.  Till one day my mentor at the time, one John Harris by name, was looking over a series and said, “What have you seen in this?”.  And as the image was a tad overexposed. Think 2-3 stops, I really hadn’t bothered with it.  “Look at the eye,” say he. “Oh,” says I. Long story short, a trip through Photoshop and things were looking a lot better.  John was suitably impressed enough to make me a super 32 Inch print from it.  And there we go again. Looking Forward.  The old D200 had a respectable resolution of 10megapixel. Yet is was sufficient for a large print. Still graces the wall. It’s ISO was bailing out at about 400ISO. Yet, Noise, handling of the old lens, old raw processing engine, skimpy Photoshop CS(1), and yet all that is left in the dust as what shine through is the expression of the bird.

Today, looking forward, we shoot at 1600ISO and think nothing of going higher. We shoot with D850 or Z7, or Canon 1D X Mark II and lenses that laser speed quick autofocus. Yet, John would not say to me, “Oh, you shot this with… and a setting of…  He’d say, “Look at the eye”.

Do we like new gear, of course we do.  But no one asks a surgeon, “Oh, what scalpel do you use?” as in,— If I buy that scalpel, I too will be a great surgeon.  But the first thing people say casually looking at the pictures, is, “Oh you must have a good camera!!!!”. 🙂

Had a great meal in a restaurant, or at home with a super host/ess.  Dare you to ask, “So, you must have a good frying pan?”

We do it with love. Love of the medium, love of the image, love of the subject, and love of the message to our viewer.

This Kestrel was one of two from that year’s clutch.  Both accepted my presence, and would land, sit, preen, eat on the branches of the old tree, while I sat on a log metres away. When I came into the paddock, they would readily fly toward the tree. Their gracious mother, (We called her Elizabeth), regularly hunted in the ground near my feet.  It’s pretty humbling to be laying in the grass, and have a full-grown Kestrel, ‘plop’ on the ground by my knee, so close I could watch the chest feathers going in and out as she breathed.

All of that magic, moment, meeting of the universe, is here. Distilled into the one photo.  And if technique, ISO and equipment were that important,:
“I’ve come a long way down the track.
Got a long way left to go
Making photos, from what I know

”

Looking Forward, so much to get involved with, so many opportunities to enjoy.
Looking Back, so many great people, views and gear that has got me this far.

Here’s another from the same series, just in case anyone ponders it was a fluke.

 

Casual enough to preen while I sat nearby.
Enjoy, and thanks for struggling to the end.
May your vision of the world around you bring compelling images that reach out to others.

 

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6 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #14: Looking Forward, Looking Back

  1. I absolutely agree – you have to love and respect your subject. All the expensive equipment in the world isn’t going to turn a snapshot into a great photograph, even though (of course) it helps to have a good lens and camera.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Much to ponder here, David. I agree that while we do need to pay attention to settings and the ‘rules’, they by themselves will not generate the shot that stands out. And that while good equipment helps it is not the sum total. The most important ‘piece of gear’ is the eye of the photog! Love the images of the Kestrel here!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Absolutely agree. And it’s a hard game. Perfect pictures take a huge investment in time. And when you’ve done your best, to think, the camera gets the credit. But the pleasure of the close encounters with the feathered kind lives on. I am amazed it was even possible to achieve such perfect focus manually. Such a gorgeous bird!

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    1. Hi Derek, the old pro manual focus lenses were built to a high precision, and the focus system was on a superb bearing mechanism, they were a delight to turn, silky smooth and could be turned with just the slightest pressure. I used my thumb to rock it back and forth, in half the time some slower af lenses take to go from infinity to closeup.
      I used it with the recommended TC301 converter for a 1200mm f/11 lens. So hard to see focus in the D200 viewfinder, I used to rely on the Green Focus Dot in the lefthand side of the screen. 🙂

      I have parted with some great glass in my time, but none matched that lens. I’d buy it again in an heartbeat (Well I can afford to now!).
      Its worth looking at or for a book by Laurie Campbell, (Scottish photographer) who wrote a book called Guide to Bird and Nature Photography, for the RSPB in England.
      Most of the bird shots were made, (on film) with this lens.
      It was one of the first Bird Photos books I purchased, and then I hunted high and low to find that lens. As luck would have it, Camera Exchange had one laying around collecting dust. 🙂

      Having a subject that was more than happy to share my presence helped a lot too.

      Like

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