Saturday Evening Post: #49 An Endless Love Affair

“Light makes a photograph. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light.
Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the (a) key to photography.”

So said George Eastman. Founder of the Eastman Kodak Company, and  man who went on to amass a fortune at his death that, today would be around $2 Billion.

I wondered for all that, if there was a collection of photographs somewhere taken by a man who Embraced, Admired, Loved and Knew light.
But sad to say he seems to have left very little of a body of work that could be said to be the photography of George Eastman.

Here is a link to an image of Eastman using a Kodak Number 2 camera while on board the S. S. Gallia in 1890
George_Eastman_(F._Church_1890).jpg

He was enamoured with motion pictures and carried a 16mm camera on his travels. From those journeys a number of documentaries of various places were made in the 1920s. He also regularly travelled to Game Hunting Safaris in Africa.
I can recall seeing some book or documentary once, that showed Eastman, the ‘White Hunter’ in suitable garb posing around the bodies of dead beasts, but no doubt the majority of those photos would have been taken by his handlers.
Here is a link to one from the George Eastman House site. 2007-0007-0127-safari-ge-and-villager.jpg

We had been with BirdLife Werribee, formerly and now informally  known “Werribee Wagtails” on a day outing to Ocean Grove.

The group was walking around Blue Waters Lake Reserve and had stopped to see several Nankeen Night Herons in an old willow tree, with its twisted branches and long fringes that made sighting just that bit difficult.

Also flying past down the centre of the lake from time to time were Royal Spoonbills.  They had to sun behind them and looked a treat in brilliant white against the shady far shore of the lake.
I lost interest in hard to see Herons and became enthralled with both the spoonbills and the light so beautifully cascading through the feathers.

Exposure for such scenes is at best fraught with complications. As EE is known to say.  “If I get the feather detail right, the background gets lost. If I keep the surrounds then the contrast takes out the feather details.” Or some combination of those words that expresses the difficulty of backlighting.

No hero lecture here. I choose exposure for the feathers, and will worry about where the background goes when I work out the mood and feel that I want from the moment.  That is a slider thing. I make no apologies.  Give me Photoshop with layers, layer masks, paintbrush, and a Curves setting and  that’s me for post production in the digital darkroom.

How to set the exposure right for the wings?  See my blog sometime back on Dean Collins.

I managed several birds on the day, and at first thought I’d like to have the head and neck showing. But in the end, I selected this one as the shape and curve of the wings is Satur poetic.

Enjoy

 

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Moments: Learning (Brown) Patience

At “The Office”, there are a resident pair of Brown Falcon.

(Called the Office, because we spend a bit of time there as in—Just another day at the office—)

One of Brown’s qualities certainly must be their patience. Happy to sit quietly, seemingly disinterested, they take the scene in, work out where the food is, and then strategies to get to the spot, and return with the least amount of energy dissipation.

Not unusual to see Brown, sitting with its distinct upright stance on a post, branch or roadside sign for what seems hours. Passing traffic has little effect on the bird’s demure stance.

We’ve worked with this pair for a few years, and when they are around, its interesting to see them favour one or another perching locations.
I’ve featured this bird several times on the blog over the years, and have called him “Bernie”. Late evening sunshine ‘burnishes,’ his rich mottled chest, and so the name seemed appropriate.  Not that he seems to care it must be said.

He was hunting for small crickets and the like on the edge of the river cliffs.  A large melaleuca bush is one of the favoured perches.  Gives a great view along the cliffs and he can prop into the branches and so be protected from attacks from the rear.  Magpies, mudlarks, other raptors might swing by and attempt to dislodge him, but clever bird that he is, he simply sets back further among the branches and any attack is thwarted by the branches.

We had been working with him for about an hour or so and the light had been good, and as we headed for home, I peeked over the rim and there he was in the bush. But the light had diminished, still it was worth waiting for him to throw as it would have to be toward or at least to the side.

I don’t often shoot multi-burst, but figured that by the time he left the bush and got settled he’d have to stay pretty much in the same focus plane and most of the shots would be sharp (ish). Pity about the light and slow shutter speed.

So EE and I waited.  Things happen slowly in Brown Falcon time. But you’ve got to keep your eye on the bird, as they don’t give a lot of warning that they are going to move.
So we waited.

Brown waited.

It’s one of the reasons why with a long lens we invest in a good tripod, and a Wimberley gimbal head. Takes all the weight off the arms. But, who wants to carry all that heavy gear out just on the off chance it might be needed. So, I was shooting handheld with the 500mm PF. Light enough, but after 10 minutes my aching muscles needed a rest.  And then there is always the risk that is the moment the bird will throw.

Waiting.

Another round or two of holding until the muscles cramp, and then releasing.
Waiting.

I was just regrabbing focus and had the shutter half-pressed, when with barely a feather ruffle Bernie took to the air, straight toward me, and I ripped off a sequence.
“Oh No,” I heard on my right.  And it was just at that moment EE had taken a muscle relief stretch.  Sympathy doesn’t cut it.  Gloating is not part of the process.

Here are all the frames from the sequence.  I thought it was interesting  how the wings are deployed to get him out of the bush, and turned for the run along the grass.

{EDIT} It wasn’t until I re-looked at the shots here on the blog that it shows that on the upwing strokes the rocks his legs forward pendulum like, on the more powerful down stroke, the legs go  back to close to the body.  Just like a kid on a swing. Brown, you always amaze me.

Enjoy

Bernie arriving at the bush. I shot this one earlier in the day, and you can just see the edge of the river cliff in the bottom of the frame.
Snug, safe and on the alert

Typical Brown Falcon flight. Ground hugging radar in action
This is a close flyby from earlier in the afternoon when the light was good. Go Bernie

Saturday Evening Post #48 Studio Werkz: The Moment

I usually reserve “Studio Werkz” for bird portraits.  Photos where I’ve been able to spend some time with the bird, try a few different backdrops, and have a few options on lighting, and also find ways to bring out the character of the subject.

Sometimes it might mean several trips back to the area, and spending the time to allow the bird to accept my presence.

Long term readers will recall the “Studio Werkz” story  of a couple of years, ago, and I associate it with making the very best environmental portraits that I can achieve.

Little backstory to bring everyone else up-to-date.

One of my first pro photo opportunities was with a long established studio. Wedding groups were very much ‘traditional’, as befits the market, and always done in a long studio, suitably decored, or interior decorated, or setup to enable full length portraits, bride by a mirror, and seated formals.
Actually if you looked at the deb photos, the business shots and the kiddie shots, and the prize-winning dog shots, you’d probably have noted a similarity in both decor and ‘style’.

Till, the new studio on the block opened up, and were doing, ‘gasp’ environmental wedding groups in the local park. -Hope it rains on them!!! 😦

Slick of marketing, and low on photoskills, they did, it seem, dominate the business very quickly.

Which is what led me to a lifetime study of outdoor environmental portraits. A trip or two through the workshops of people like Dean Collins, and Don Nibblink, set a style that I’ve always honed to improve.

Which is where Studio Werkz was born. Several young hungry photographers with great ideas and little cash. I don’t think we got beyond the first planning session. And went our seperate ways. One to work for a multi-national, another to do band photography before it was popular, another to free-lance for local magazines, and yet another to roam around the world and never be seen or heard of again. And me.

Which is why, if you are still reading—And well done if you are—Studio Werkz is my nod to those bygone days of outdoor portraits. Nuff said.

I was just this week, working on the various AF settings on the D500 camera, trying to work out the best one to ‘instantly’ grab Snipe in flight.

Sitting in the backyard, trying out each setting and seeing which were fast, slow, or unpredictable.
When on a sudden, a New Holland Honeyeater landed on the fence metres from me.
Good chance to try my technique eh?

So  point camera near bird, press shutter, hope that I pick up focus… and when mirror flopped back down, the fence was empty.

Oh, well, missed a chance thought I.

Tai Chi pigeon came down and was much more co-operative, and I discovered the subtleties of the AF system.

When I later downloaded the images, I was taken aback, by the one and only New Holland Honeyeater shot of the day.

Good enough for Studio Werkz, I declared.
Portraits need to bring out not only the best expression, but also allow us to explore the character. And there in one frozen frame, with 3/4 side light on the whirring bits, was a New Holland Honeyeater.

Enjoy