Saturday Evening Post: #33 Connection & A Headsup for Interest

Photographers, as Freeman Patterson says, are aware of connections. They are everywhere.

Because, as photographers of natural things, our opportunities are almost as endless as our subject matter. We tend to approach our subject in one of two ways.

  1. Making realistic documentary shots.
    of
  2. Making impressionistic creations of shape, tone, colour and form.

Or, sometimes it can be a combination of both. Making compositions that suggest more than they actually tell. They cause the viewer to use their imagination as they look at the elements. It’s what they speak to individuals.

My old mate John Harris was always a big believer in causing people to ‘use their imagination—to engage the viewers sense of fantasy and wonder.’

Photography really has a relationship with chance. We think of the ‘lucky’ photographer who makes an image at just the right moment.

Yet often it is no accident. Particularly if the ‘lucky’ photographer seems to be able to repeat it time after time.
It is not accident if the photographer anticipates the event and is ready.

It is not so much an accident as hoping and purposefully waiting for the ‘lucky’ chance.

We were as it happens photographing Sooty Oystercatchers, when I saw this Royal Spoonbill beating its way along the shoreline.
What I wanted, I told myself was the bird isolated against either the blue of the sky or the darker blue of the sea. But by the time the bird was ‘in range’ it was flying pretty much along the horizon line. And I couldn’t get any higher, so had to content myself with the bird isolated against the lighter sky.

Later as I was looking at the shots on the screen, I had marked all the horizon line images for deletion. And that would have been the end of it.

And then the connection dawned on me. The bird is suspended between its two elements. Air and Water.

A quick crop, straighten up that horizon and job’s done. Connection.

Headsup
Not sure if you are a watcher of things video online.
There is a city building in Ohio in the US of A that was destined for renovation. As they began work on the building they discovered a pair of American Kestrel had just nested in an isolated part of the building.  To the credit of the building company, they have suspended work for two months so the young can hatch and grow up without interference. They also installed a web cam and you can watch the progress of the young family.

 

Here’s the link.

Take a look inside an American Kestrel nest

If you are fortunate, lucky or well connected, you’ll get to see Mum feeding her brood.

Enjoy

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Saturday Evening Post: #32 “Let there be…”

Light.  (and as someone once said, You could see for Miles!!) 🙂

Had a day with BirdLife Werribee—formerly Werribee Wagtails—in the Gardens.  (Melbourne Royal Botanic no less).

At one of the entrance gates these rather formal lights, from a bygone era attrached our attention. So much so that the birdo in my was laid to oneside and the building and details photographist took over.

I was limited by a couple of things. Longish lens, so I had to move back, and lack of space to move back without getting some tree, bush or pole in the way.  I also really wanted the shapes to be established behind a shaded area to give the right contrast. In the end, I had to make the exposure through some branches that blew back and forth in the breeze. Never mind, managed in the end.

Did a little job with the Photoshop brush to enhance the brillance of those golden filagree, to balance the richness of the glowing globe.

As Freeman Patterson says of light, “It’s the resulting shapes, lines, textures and perspectives that you have to arrange in the picture space. Not the Light. Stay focused on the elements, once appropriately arranged, the resulting light will carry the story.”

Moments: Sharing a Little Love

We don’t get many Little Lorikeets down around The Office area. But there are several pairs that seem to come and go on a regular basis, and I suspect they might always be in the area, just too high up to notice.

With reports of Purple-crowned Lorikeets in the general area, we wondered if they might be at The Office, so took Dolly on a bit of a traverse to see what we could find. Despite EE’s best attempts, we couldn’t spot, let alone hear them.  We were getting ready for the trek back out, when the “rattley rolling, squeaky” call came from a tree behind. And there was a pair of Little Lorikeets engaged in some preening and pairbonding alopreening.

I think the photos tell the story.

Enjoy

Saturday Evening Post #31 Evoking a Response

I had started on a journey for this post, through managing digital photos (digital assets—always important to use the right technical terms, so the masses know they are dealing with a well studied and knowledgable source.), but as it developed into a a bit of a rant, I thought something a little more lighthearted might be a better Evening Post.

Freeman Patterson once said, “A good photograph is one that clearly shows the character of the subject while revealing a little of the photographer’s response to it.”

Hard for us bird photographers sometimes and the bird is usually not the least concerned about allowing us any emotional response at a personal level, so we have to include that in other ways.
The placement in the frame, the isolation or inclusion of the surrounds, the pose of the creature, and the form, shape, tone and texture that we area able to achieve.

“If you think of a photograph in this way, you’ll find your personal direction, as a photographer emerging and becoming clearer”. And I’d add to that both to yourself, and those who view the photos.

“Coming to know yourself through interaction with someone or something is very satisfying.  In the end you get the picture, of both of you.”

Which somehow gets me on the beach with the light changing over a Pied Cormorant. A fairly tolerant bird at best, so its not to hard to work with them. But I’m on the wrong side with the light, the background is bland and the bird stoic if nothing else.

Risking putting the bird to air, I moved until the backdrop was at least neutral, and about the same time, a sliver of light came out, the bird turned and I pressed the shutter.

I often gain as much from just sitting or standing and watching the bird in its own world. Little character traits become obvious—here the foot folded up under the tummy. Other times it is just a matter of waiting until all the elements come together. I may make a photograph, or I may not, but the fact that I can observe, see, apply visual design and appreciate the bird’s life for its own sake, enables me to remain fully relaxed for the moment.

Australian Pied Cormorant, Phalacrocorax varius

White-winged Terns: Welcome Visitors

I have, it must be said, been hanging off making this post. I was hoping, somewhat against hope, the I’d get another day down at the WTP with these delightful birds, but sad to say, the season has changed, the birds are on the move, and the fickle weather has finally arrived with some decent rain for the hard stressed environment.

White-winged Terns, (used to be called White-winged Black Tern for obvious reasons), pay a visit to the south over the mid-of-summer through most of autumn. They feed  up on the rich supply of insects along the bunds and over the waters at the treatment plant. I suspect we see somewhere between 50-100 of them over the period.

The breeding birds also begin to colour up readying for their trip north.  They are not huge migrants, like say Red-necked Stints, but still their journey north will take them into South-East Asia, and as far as China and India. Hard to find definitive data. There is also a branch of the family that breeds as far up as northern Europe. I think they spend the summer around the Mediterranean.

We all, I suppose, have birds that intrigue us to one extent or another, and White-winged Terns are one of those birds for me.  I think mostly because of their consistent habit, and their lovely changeable plumage. Most seasons they seem to work in just a few ponds at the WTP, it changes a bit with the food source, but most times if they are locatable, and not on far-off ponds that have no access, they present a wonderful show of hunting close into the edges of the ponds and over the grass verges.  Making it easy to get closeups, if and I did say, if, I can keep them in the viewfinder.  Like all terns the flight path is not erratic, but certainly not predictable.

We have had several sessions with the birds, and rather than try and explain it all, the following shots should speak volumes for the beauty and delicate nature of these birds.
Hopefully it might also show just a little bit of my interest and enjoyment of their visit and how much I appreciate such a challenging subject.

Enjoy.

Part of a larger flock on the move. It shows the various moultings from almost white juveniles to near black-bodied adults.
Food off the water, or…
… In the air
They also are called, “Ear muff terns” by some folk because of the little black markings behind the eye
Easy to image how impressive they will be in full breeding moult

Till next year, travel well little birds, your visit was most appreciated.

Saturday Evening Post #30 “Whatchabeendoin”

Apologies: Sorry about late delivery, normally I prepare this early for upload, but had a couple of hectic days. Enjoy.

 

“Whatchabeendoin?”

A question that always came up among a group of photographers that I worked with.
We were an eclectic bunch.  A radiographer, a teacher and lecturer, a writer and creative, a wedding photographer, a specialist in commercial, with a leaning toward panoramic shots with a “Widelux” camera, a landscape photographer whose work with a Gandolfi Variant on 5×7 Inch set styles the digital workers are only beginning to achieve, and me, who around that time was working with a lab processing film for variety of sources, including “The Day in the Life of.. (Australia)” and Rick Smolan’s “Treks” for Nat Geo, the story of Robyn Davidsons’ camel trip across the Northern Territory and Western Australian deserts.

So after the usual answers, to “Whatchabeendoin?”, of:  “I did the Smith and Alexandar” wedding last week, to: “I’m in an underground carpark doing wide shots for an architect who is going to redevelop the area, to: “I’m doing a series of trees along the escarpment on the Western Arthurs”, we’d get down to what we were doing creatively.

Usually half a dozen so slides or prints were laid out and we’d discuss, creatively where the feel, or life, or experience of each of the shots was taking us as viewers.

One of the group was an Englishman who had worked in his youth as a photographer for a postcard company, he would travel about taking photos of various tourist attractions for postcard sales. Pubs were his speciality.  And interestingly enough, almost all his pub shots had one thing in common.  Potted geraniums in the foreground on the scene. He used to have in the back of the little Morris van, a selection of potted plants and would set them up out the front of the building, ‘for colour and added interest’.

He could do about 5-7 shots in a day.  And off course always talked to the landlord and shared a pint or two as he went.  By the end of the day he was well oiled.  “It is one of the reasons that we say, “Merry old England’, he would quip.

The Widelux guy and I ended up working together for a large multinational company, and once at the end of a conference, the obligatory ‘group photo’ was made.  They had hired a dude with a Widelux (an F7 to be precise), and this camera didn’t have a shutter, it had a rotating lens on a slit. And shot on a curved back with 120 roll film for a very long pano shot.  The exposure took several second as the lens rotated around the scene and the film (Bit like panos on hand fones today)
We reasoned that if we stood at one end of the group at the beginning of the exposure and then ran behind the group to the other end, and stood there, we’d be in the shot at both ends of the group. Great idea. We did.

But of course the person who ‘shouted louder and controlled the purse strings’ was not amused by our action, and we both ended up working in different part of the company sometime after that. “Childish and pathetic” were some of the less colourful words used.

The couple of years we worked together provided some of the best work, creatively and expressively that I think I ever did. The creative input, and the welcome feedback, not the ‘oh nice shot’, but— where is this going, how to I feel about it, and what is it saying, were all great guides that ended up keeping us alive to our work.

Time of course goes on, and we all moved by to other opportunities. However for quite a long time we’d occassionally get together for a meal, and the inevitable, “Whatchabeendoin?”

One particular day, I turned up with an iPad. (the original one), and a small folio of bird photos I was working on. It was one of the nesting season of Kestrels that I was following. Somewhere on the blog are shots and stories from those years.
We met in a restaurant near Vic Market, and after a few bottles of red, the ‘Whatchabeendoin” came up.

Andrew, the pub photographer above, latched on to the image shown here.  It was taken during the rain that broke the 7 year drought that season, about 4 days of constant rain.
The bird is Elizabeth as she waits in the mist for Mr Darcy to return with some breakfast. He had only been able to get out to hunt occasionally for several days, and spent most of his time trying to stay dry on the tree.
The nesting site was very close to end of the runway at Tullarmarine, and there was a constant stream of aircraft coming and going over the site.
All I had to do was line up the bird with an incoming and my image was made.
Andrew was taken with the red of the light and the isolation of the shape of the bird, and we talked about the shot for several minutes.
Then he said prosaically, “Y’know, you could have improved this!”,

Oh, saith I.

“Yes I think a few well-placed potted geraniums at the end of the runway would have “added that little extra colour and interest”.’
🙂

So I ask, “Whatchabeendoin?”

Moments: Whistling Kite does Takeaway

It’s beginning to look like I’m getting in a rut with raptors and food.
Mostly just a bit of a backlog of other work and the natural progression of things.

Interesting to be posting such work on the blog, as it fulfills a learning process I’m journeying on at the moment.
Exploring photography, my own work in particular, as an iterative process.  Or a journey of versions that lead to new discoveries.

That is: the repetition that builds on the previous shot. It is where the concept of ‘multi-burst’ and I diverge.  I need to  have thought out the changes, or the visual differences from shot to shot. Not just blaze away and pick out the ‘best looking one’, to tidy up in Photoshop.

Not, as I’m sure you can imagine a simple step by step process when it comes to birds that are unpredictable at best, and downright difficult to get to understand at the worst. Which I think is why ‘iterative’ is such a useful motif.

EE and I were at The Office.  The Red Gum picnic area to be specific. Its a short trip down for Dolly, and if all goes well, there can be an interesting array of birds on a good day.
We were sitting enjoying the Grey of Earl, and a snack, when a grey shadow moved over our heads and flew toward the large dead skeleton of a tree by the river’s edge.
“A Whistling Kite,” quoth she.

Then it became, as we moved nearer, that said Kite also had bought a snack too. It had found a discarded Shingleback Lizard carcass remains. Now, it might be that the Kite had made the kill, but the condition of the carcass suggested it more likely had retrieved it after it was abandoned. Most of the rich middle parts of the hapless creature were already gone.

So we sat and watched it play with its food, and all went well until a ‘murder of crows’ in the form of a group of ravens moved in to help the Kite.  They believed it seems, in ‘share and share alike’, so long as they got the goodies to share.
Our hero was having none of that and scooping up its meal, it departed to a more secure area.

Enjoy