Saturday Evening Post: #38 “I accept what is offered”

Been a wet stormy day in our neighborhood.

So, I settled into the window seat, with a nice hot cuppa, a few good books, and watched the clouds chase one another across the sky.

First stop was T S Eliot “Ash-Wednesday”,
I rejoice that things are as they are

And another from Lao Tze,
“I am a guest in this world, delighted by my host’s generosity, I accept what is offered”.

A week back EE and I had set out on a very bright sunny morning to go to Point Cook Coastal Park to look for Flame Robins.

Did I mention sunny, oh, yes, it looked like a treat.  But by the time we had arrived on the ground, a huge grey cloud could be seen over the horizon and coming in our direction.  Within a few minutes a thick sea-mist had set in.  And with no breeze, it just hung in the air.

We found some robins, but the lack of light and the difficulty of getting close enough to get a clean shot meant that our time was severely limited to a few records of the birds at work.

One of my mentors used to talk of the two major influencers on a photograph.  The Elements, and the Intent.

Elements are easy. They are the ‘things’ and the camera settings we choose.  The Intent is what am I trying to say. What will the view perceive and what is the best way to approach and arrange the elements.

And what better way to challenge those opportunities that the use of the mist to eliminate all the unnecessary and concentrate on the intent.
As I’d not bothered to bring a smaller lens, out came the iPhone and a bit of a look about soon revealed some panoramic opportunities.  (I’ve talked here before about my fascination with the wide-wide view and really appreciate the simplicity of the phone’s pano feature).

The old gate was an obvious choice and I enjoyed the wrestle to find the right framing, and the best backdrop.

And I came across a small pine seedling struggling to exist on an old log of its previous generations. (Lao Tze would be impressed).

Here is how it looked, and here is a link to the final on Flickr.

Enjoy

One of my first options
What I really wanted was the old gateway to dominate the frame

 

And the first look at the seedling at work

And here is a link to the final that I shared on Flickr.

 

The eternal struggle for life

Moments:Mist-erious Morning Ramble

“On the Post,” she cried.
We were driving along a flat farmland, busy, country road.  Which Post? Seemed an obvious question from the driver’s side view. Thought I was supposed to be keeping it on the blackstuff, and avoiding making close personal contact with the oncoming traffic.
“Back there, on your side.” Makes it even harder.

Slow down a bit, look for a spot to pull off the road.  No easy matter either as we’ve had a good share of rain of late and the pools on the grass on the side of the road, are not a promising parking location. 500 metres and I’m off the road.  Now to wait for a break in the traffic to get around avoid cars in both directions. I’ve seen it less busy on a club day at Winton or Philip Island circuits.

“Think its a Brown Falcon,” so around we go. “There.”, but I’ve spotted it in the sunshine by then. Another of the avoid other car contact at all costs manoeuvres, and I’ve got the car about 50 metres from the most likely photo spot.
Slog back through the mud, avoiding if possible the road spray from our passing friendly roadsharing traffic.
By the time we’d got to a break in the roadside bushes, I’d already called “Peregrine Falcon”. Much too broad across the shoulders for your average Brown.
“It’s caught something,” Something, being, as it soon becomes apparent, is a rabbit.

First problem.  The first signs of a morning seamist are just about on top of us, and the sunlight has a limited tenure.  Second, the bird is much too far away in the middle of the fence line.  Thirdly in my haste to slosh down here, I’ve left the Teleconverter in the car. Bad move.

Two passes by a magpie and the Falcon is a bit nervous, and takes to the air, at first I thought because of its run, it was going to come close, but it soon swung out, around, and headed down the line.  Now too far for much else than enjoying the moment.
Then the seamist closed in, and we needed a guide dog to get back to the car, and the strains of bagpipes and Paul McCartney’s “Mull of Kintyre” ringing in my ears.

Enjoy

1906-23_DWJ_6534
Just about to have its morning meal interrupted by a passing magpie
1906-23_DWJ_6541
With a tail flick its away. Easy to see the prey was a rabbit.
1906-23_DWJ_6543
Getting up to speed
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And now too far away, and with a mist rolling in, the best we can do is watch. Is that bagpipes I hear in the background?

Saturday Evening Post: #37 Rich Songster

The 13th Century Persian Poet Rumi, wrote

“I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.”

He, no doubt, had never heard of the great songster of the Australian bush, but again, no doubt, he would have been impressed by the range, the volume, and the variety of the songs of the Grey Shrikethrush.

In winter when there is no one to impress, the one or two note call is quite penetrating, but hardly melodic, but come the season for mating, the call changes to the most beautiful and sustained tunes.
I once found one nesting in a old concrete tank, the shape of the broken top of the tank made the whole thing a superb sounding box, and as I peeked in side the bird was in full cry, not worried about who hears, not what they think.

It is estimated that a pair will maintain a 10 hectare sized territory, and perhaps that is why the loud song must ring from one end to the other.

Their diet is quite catholic, and they have no qualms about helping themselves to robins, thornbills and other small birds egg and young.  I once saw an adult with a match-sized stick, poking it into a hole in  a branch to lever out a small grub.

John Latham, one of Australia’s early and great naturalists gave it the binomial Colluricincla harmonica. Colluricincla refers to Thrush, while harmonica, from the  Greek harmonikos, – skilled in music, and Latin, harmonicus- harmonious.

This was one of a pair that were working their way along a river’s edge.  The simple calls were enough to keep them in contact with one another, but also gave me the opportunity to locate them amongst the scrub.

 

Saturday Evening Post #36, Sounding Solitude

Someone asked me the other day, about my habit of regularly getting up early in the morning and spending the first hour or so out walking. At the present, most of that time its in the dark, as the sun doesn’t raise its sleepy head until around 7:30am.

My walk takes me along a bicycle path besides the Werribee River among some wonderful old Red River Gums.  My answer to the question probably was a bit profound for the uninitiated, but I responded.  “I like walking at that hour of the morning as I can hear the trees breath”.

Lao Tzu suggests in one of his famous verses that a harmonious life is built around a sense of awe and acceptance.  Walking at the hour helps me build that sense of awe.

In the 16th century the mystical poet, St John of the Cross would write a somewhat similar thought of awe and acceptance.

My beloved is the mountains,
And lonely wooded valleys,
Strange islands,
and resounding rivers,
The whistling of love-stirring breezes,

The tranquil night,
At the time of the rising dawn,
Silent music,
Sounding solitude,
The supper that refreshes and deepens love.

The light skipping through the trees weaves its dance of shape and form and is miraculous. Unhindered, it scatters its rays of brilliance, plying shape and shadow without thought or favour. Working it magic in the natural course of the universe.
Lao Tzu would say, enjoying the moment “You will never weary of the world”.

A Day at the Farm

Tis true to say that EE and I haven’t been down to the Western Treatment Plant for quite a number of weeks.  The weather, health things, family events and perhaps a touch of sloth just seems to have gotten in the way.

My photo mate Neil, sent me a note about his last weekend trip, and we decided if the weather opened up a bit, we’d at least drive down 29 Mile Road for a looksee.

So this morning after a couple of Tai Chi class sessions,  we loaded up with lunch, a cuppa or two of Earl of Grey and of course the essential cameras and headed out in the warm sunshine, (and to tell all the story, the rather crisp wind as well).

Before we reached Beach Road junction, we spied some Flame Robins, but they wanted to work far out in a paddock, and we could only get glimpses.

Further on down, and a trio of Black-shouldered Kites were keeping the mice on their toes.

And as we sat with lunch at the first corner on the 29 Mile Road, a Spotted Harrier wafted by making some very nervous Swamphens.  As we entered the T Section area, we were looking for Brolga as Neil had sighted them here at the weekend, but we lucked out.

Next we found a single Flame Robin female that was working around a puddle of water on the roadway.

Looking up, I heard the familiar call of a Black-shouldered Kite with a mouse, and as we looked a Black Falcon swept in from no where and after a little evasion from the Kite, the Falcon secured the prize and took off with the erstwhile and very angry kite in hot pursuit, but to no avail.  The Black is just that good in the air.

As we drove back out, lo, the very Brolga had turned up in the first pond and were busy preening, we shared the last of the Earl of Grey and enjoyed their unconcerned wardrobe adjustments.

So for a first day back at the farm, it was a most enjoyable and profitable time.

The fur flies as the Kite prepares lunch
Fast food
Spotted Harrier at work over Swamphen pool
Australasian Swamphen with impeccable table manners
Golden-headed Cisticola
Female Flame Robin
Black Falcon speeds in on a free lunch
Easy to see why the Kite has no hope of winning this battle
Having lost its mouse, it did at least give the Falcon a parting swoop.
Preening Brolga

Saturday Evening Post: #35 Of Shape and Form

I have of late been looking at the prospect of replacing my ageing Lightroom.  Adverse, as I am to paying the Adobe conglomerate a monthly hostage or blackmail fee, I was hoping to find a reasonable standalone option.  Not that I want flashy sliders and zillions of use/ful/less presets. No, my requirement are simple.  Good image management, and the excellent keyword search facilities.  Truth be told, I think Abobe still are the only ones in the ball park.

But I was amused to look at some of the offerings.  Catchy marketing phrases, “Make the most of your photos.”
“Reveal the hidden photo within”. “Photos that will look their ABSOLUTE best”. “Match your artistic inspiration”.

I worry about ‘finding the hidden photo’, as in I’ll put up an image I’d have deleted anyway, and a few tweaks with the ‘inspired’ AI software, and dah dah!  Oh, what a great image,  I didn’t know I was THAT good a photographer. Where has the image been all my life.

Yet not one of them has the simple ability to find the Keyworded “Black-shoudered Kite, WTP 600mm f.8, D810”, or what ever. With just on 100+k images, I’m not likely to rekeyword to match a program that can’t read standard IPTC data sets.

But what got me thinking was the ability to now discover previously overlooked photos that somehow match my artistic inspiration.

As a young photo-assistant, my mentor talked of three images.  The one we saw, the one we photographed, and the one we printed and distributed to the customer.  Now it seems we can add a fourth, the one we never saw coming.
Which I suppose means I can mindlessly point the camera out the window, run the file through some AI (artificial intelligence, in case you’ve not been keeping up), and lo, there it is in all its glory. No longer is digital development or enhancement a craft in the service of my vision.  It has become my vision.

It’s like a singer with no vocal training, no voice development and no concept of fine breathing picking up an AI microphone and revealing the hidden talent within to sound like Pavarotti.

There is, so say the ancient sages, a little bit of Yang in Yin, and a little bit of Yin in Yang. I’m often grateful that I came to photography at the height of black and white. The power that comes from working to get the best angle, the right shape, the richest lighting, all necessary to take our 3D world and bring it on to a 2 D medium, print/book/screen.

Push the Yang, and we get dark moody results. Push the Yin, and light and bright shines forth.

I found this Little Raven on a local tv antenna. It was preening, and talking to its family stationed on other close perching spots. At some point, just as I pressed the shutter, it decided to turn and talk to its close neighbour.

What astounds me is the bird’s ability to turn its head in the direction it’s going to move, then lift off and with total confidence turn its body to match the direction and plant its feet back on the perch. Poetry in motion.

The yin of the eye makes its statement within the yang of the bird.  The yin of the cloudy sky is balanced by its little bit of dark antenna.

The freedom of the bird is contrasted by the fixedness of the aerial.

The confidence of the bird is balanced against the rigidness of the tubes.

The cleverness of the bird making use of the available is contrasted against the metal structure built for just one purpose.

I’d love to see AI find all that.

Saturday Evening Post: #34 Getting Close

It is said of famous battle photographer Robert Capa, when asked by a collegue why his photos weren’t good enough, responded, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”

It’s easy at first blush to believe that Capa meant, well, get out of the trench and get close to the action. However it is more than likely that his comment had a much deeper meaning of getting close to the subject in an intimate knowledgeable way.

It’s about a matter of experiencing. And as bird photographers we chase distant subjects with the longest lenses, and its hard to establish a feeling of the intimate from a distance.

For us its a matter of spending time, respecting the subject, and allowing the time to wonder. I really believe one of the great gifts of photography is that it teaches us to see. And not just what we see,

but,

How we see it.

So much so that I can say, with some degree of wonder, that the camera has opened my eyes to the world around me. Not just the natural, but the human. Some of it from the dark side, but also from the beauty. It’s not a perfect world, but I don’t want to discuss that here.

The gift helps us to learn to see. Moments of interaction of shape, light, line colour, slow down.
And we make space for wonder at the world around us and the brillance of the amazing medium we have to share those moments with others.