Saturday Evening Post #55 : A Zest for Life

Due to a turn of circumstances, and a change in the weather, with intense cold together with strong winds, meant I was housebound the other morning.

I kept walking to the window, and pressing my nose up against the pane, but to no effect as the weather just seemed to laugh at my difficulty.

Then, on what can only have been a serendipitous moment, a small brown bird arrived on the fence. Followed by a second, and then a third.
A closely followed by the local backyard Blackbird.  Looking as always dapper in his rich dress.

We’ve known for the past few days, that they had an active nest in one of the bushes in the garden next door, and we had seen occasionally the past few days a young one in flight.  But now it was obvious that the pair had hatched out a fine looking crop of three young ones.

And I should add “Hungry” ones.  They sat on the fence, the garden pots and bushes, calling, calling, calling.  Feed me. I’m here, feed me.

I opened the sliding door to patio and sat down inside on a small stool, with the D500 and the 300mm PF lens.  As there was little light available in our small garden area, I was running into trouble getting sufficient shutter speed, so took a decision, and after all, they only ‘common’ blackbirds, to run the ISO up beyond 3200 and see how good the D500 might be. I also wanted to try out the latest offing from Topaz Labs with their AI DeNoise, although for the present image I didn’t use it.

The small garden area must have been full of good tummy filling food as they stayed for at least an hour or so.  Which gave me a great time to learn of some of the habits of the little birds, and to experience their simple zest for life. Each mouthful was accepted and then the cry went up for more. I began to feel both sorry and develop a respect for the hardworking male.  The female must have been off having a rest, (or gone shopping?)

The small birds cheery chatter among themselves and their calls for more food was a warm feel on a cold day.
Each carrying a new life, each eager to get a great start and each filled with a desire to learn the way of being a blackbird.

Much of the time I just sat and watched, as they skipped back and forth from pot to fence, to the edge of the patio, and eventually running across in front of me.
Not often I can have that much fun looking out my own door. 🙂

No doubt this will not be the only crop the pair will have this year, and soon instead of being their protector and uber food deliverer, Blackie, will chase them out of his territory and they will begin a new chapter of their lives.  Not doubt they will take the same enthusiasm with them.


Saturday Evening Post #54: Infatuated

In a recent article in “Nikon Users” magazine, an article on landscape photography had the following quote.

... the one thing we, as photographers, professional or enthusiast, must not lose sight of that we do this for a reason.

We enjoy it.

It's creative, and it's fun.

It's not easy, no one ever said it would be, but the buzz you get when you produce 'the' image is amazing.
Jeremy Walker. See here

Normally I like to keep a Saturday Evening Post to just one image that has impacted me during the week.

However, just for once I’m going to break with tradition, mostly because I think the images are related, tell a story, and also give an insight as to why I’ll be away this coming week.
We had, EE and I, made a trip to Point Cook Coastal Park to look for the return of Sacred Kingfisher.
It was one of those days where the weather was not playing to our advantage. A strong northerly wind was ripping through the trees, and out over the beach, sand whipping up with each step.

We had as they say had a bit of luck with the Kingfisher—All Bad! Not a feather to be found, not wing flicks and not a single distinctive call.

Why don’t we go to the beach, saith she. Ok, saith I.

And just as we arrived at the beach a small squadron of Australasian Gannets appeared, fishing in the water in front of us.  I’ve noted before that a lowish tide, and an offshore breeze seems to bring the gannets in closer, and not doubt because the fish shoals are working in closer.

This was exceptionally interesting as the tide was quite low, and the edge of the sandbank was visible in places, and the rocky ledge was also exposed.  So the birds were diving into the water not more than 30-50m from where we were standing.

Its the closest I’ve ever been to such awesome birds in action.

There is something intriguing, boarding on infatuation about watching big fishing birds explode into the water.  One only needs to look over the majority of bird books/site etc. to see the numbers of eagle, herons, cormorant and osprey photos to know that photographers find them irresistible subjects

I’ve had several sessions with gannets out beyond the reef along the Point Cook coast and also down at Point Danger, near Portland. But these were frame filling birds, and because of the wind, they adopted quite a different approach to the attack. Normally we see them rollover and drop directly.  But they seemed to drop the wings, hang out the legs, reduce speed and the torpedo-like slide into the water.  Then after 10-15 seconds they must swim back up, as  they fair bobbed out of the water, then settled back down to eat and prepare to takeoff.  Fascinating.

“So”, she reminded me, “Why did we spend $40 to book a trip to see Gannets in the water next week?” Ya gotta laugh.

See how we go ah?  Just don’t lose sight of the reason to be out and about.


This is one of the few that I saw rollover preparing to dive
Wings tucked, legs out, tail flared. Speed reduction technique

The rocks show how close to the edge of the reef the birds were working
Folded back wings preparing for entry
Coming up
How much power to get the big bird out of the wate
One jump two jumps, airborne.
Head shake to get rid of excess water.


Saturday Evening Post #53 : Looking at Cathedrals

One of my current mentors referred me to this quote from Sinclair Lewis an American novelist (among other things)

He who has seen one cathedral ten times has seen something;
he who has seen ten cathedrals once has seen but little;
and he who has spent half an hour in each of a hundred cathedrals has seen nothing at all.

Sinclair Lewis

And here we are One Year into Saturday Evening Posts, the humble scrawling and image sharing attempts by Birds as Poetry to add to the web chatter/clatter. 🙂

53 weekly editions that  has been a bit of a diversion from the usual birds only, and has looked at a lot of my philosophy for photography and birds in general.

So perhaps there should be streamers and bubbly and party favours all round, but I guess I’m just happy to have achieved the goal I set out with back in October last year.

I was going to do a year in review sort of thing, but decided you as my loyal reader had probably endured enough.

It is interesting to me that the more EE and I  go to one location and follow the lives of the birds there, the more we come away with new insights into the activities of the birds in that area. Sinclair may well have been right.

Heathdale Glen Orden  Wetlands is about 10 minutes from home, but its an area that I only visit but rarely.  It is surrounded on almost all sides by housing development and the small wetlands is really a water retaining basin for the runoff water.  But it  has one great advantage.  Once the ponds become full, the water flows out over the surrounding flat land and creates, at least for a short time, a wonderful rich, muddy, food source for many wading birds and ducks.
A visiting clan of Latham’s Snipe.

Each time I visit I learn a little something.
My goal is to find the birds either feeding or sitting, but given their proclivity to explode out of the grasses, I think I  have a lot to learn.

None the less, I managed the other day to get a few that were coming into land in the grasses.   Unhelpfully they were landing against the light, but as that is one of my favourite lighting sets for “Drama and Excitement”, I wasn’t all that disappointed.

Thanks for your support the past 12 months, or 53 editions.  Hopefully I can make it happen for the next year.

Little Journeys: Weather Bound

After our aborted visit late last week, and with the prospect of finding Glossy Ibis in the sunshine, we eagerly waited for a break in the weather, and of course time out of our hectic social calendars (Well EE’s anyway).
Such an opportunity does not come up that often it seems so Iam Grey sat languishing in the garage as both the calendar and weather phenomena swept over our heads.

EE agreed to cancel a day with the girls, and so it was deemed that we’d make a run early on Tuesday morning. Of course the weather prognosticators and their cleverly arranged little tv charts said, “Oh no, not another disastrous weather pattern, watch out for a bloke with a big boat and lots of gathering animals”, but none the less, given that was the time slot.
We went.

Didn’t see the animals two by two, but have to confess the rain made up for any loss there.

In the end I sat in the car, window down, rain falling down and watched Whiskered Terns hunting along the edge of the bunds among the grasses and the escapee canola. (ahhh yes the product that was promised not to get out of control)

The waves in the photo are not tidal, these are former sewerage ponds and the wind has stirred up the water into large running waves.

So with out further… here tis.


Saturday Evening Post #52 :

It started as a fuzzy idea.

We should go to the Treatment Plant on Friday afternoon, said EE.
Looking at the weather maps, well it seemed reasonable 5 days out.
So we planned.
And come Friday afternoon, not only was it a fuzzy idea, but in reality, the weather was fuzzy to say the least.

Still not be deterred a second plan arose.  “Let’s go out to the Highway Lounge for an afternoon coffee and if it’s still raining when we come out, well, take it as a sign, and we’ll come home.
If its not raining, take it as  a sign, and go on down to WTP”.

Can’t argue with that logic, and the coffee would at least be hot.

By the time we had indulged in one of Garry’s finest, the rain had indeed ceased, and lo, but truth be told the wind had dropped off and while overcast, it was at least pleasant.
Mind, I did check for bright lights in the sky and the sounds of heavenly voices when she said. “It’s a sign. Let’s go.”

But, and you knew that was coming right?


As we turned on to Point Wilson Road, strange little wet drops appeared almost by magic on the windscreen.  I was sure it was a sign.  However as we were already down in the plant, we kept going.

The T Section had quite a number of Whiskered Terns, (formerly Marsh Terns), hunting over the ponds, and had the weather been kinder, the photography would have been easier.

Bump up the ISO to 1600, and hope that I’d get enough shutter speed.  There is no stopping these highly energetic birds, and if you thought swallows and martins were a challenge, crank it up to a new level for terns. Especially grey birds on grey water. The auto focus, even the best of them, and the D500 ranks pretty highly, has a problem. And the rain only added that extra hint of difficulty.
So we persevered.

At one stage they started hunting over the grass areas on the bunds, and some contrast between bird and background.  Good fun.


Report from the Field: Many Years Ago.

I’ve hummed and hahhed about posting this. This blog does not do product reports or endorsements. I figure there are enough and more of those already.

So what follows is simply where I am in my journey of post processing software investigations.

Also if your  a “Bokeh” fanatic, believing that the world does not begin until f/1.8, then click away now, as there is nothing here for you.

For the record, I have a fairly large investment in software by NIk. I purchased stand alones of their Noise and Sharpening products years ago. And I’ve updated them regularly. They are my main go to until recently.

I’ve also been a fan of a number of the Topaz add ons (plugins) for Photoshop. I’m not too much of a preset sort of person, so my Topaz products have been mostly image enhancement.
Recently got a ‘free’ upgrade to the latest Topaz Studio product.(more of that some other time over a glass of chaddy I think).  And because of that, looked at their AI Sharpen. (AI in that name meaning ‘Artificial Intellegence’, but that would be marketing hype.
Anyway to cut to the chase, I am quite impressed by the results.
But, and I stress but.  This is not a recommendation to rush out and buy, to download, or to use.  Its simply what I’ve found works for me.
Just in case someone asks, here is their site. Topaz Labs

Which leads me to the point of the post late mid-week.
Many years ago.

In 1976, a magazine, Photo Techniques was launched, and it co-incided with what was to be a major change in career direction for me. Mike Johnson was the editor, and one of the main writers was a character named Ctein. (Let’s get it right: pronounced, ku-tine as in fine)
He wrote all sorts of articles on getting the best possible quality from photochemical prints. He knowlege was legendary, his practical hands-on experience was at the time without peer. If Ctein said it, it was right.
As the digital age took off all around us and ‘Giclee’ prints became the selling point, Ctein lead us all to “Yellow Brick Road” leading to print perfection. And without a loyal dog Toto to be seen.

Eventually- many years later, the magazine folded, but Mike Johnson now runs a web page called The Online Photographer TOP
See page here.
Or direct to the blog here

His biting humour and keen eye now graces an almost daily dose of Mike. Ctein continued to publish on Mikes TOP

I’d been busy of late and hadn’t checked, but when I looked today I found an article by Ctein, published back in September, 23 to be precise.
Topaz AI Sharpen.

Here tis.
Even if you don’t have/want/use/dislike/hate with a passion/or are ambivilant if you want a reasonably argued case for the way digital image processing is going to progress in the future, its a good starting point.
Also interesting to see the tangents and other discussion about ‘sharpness’ that have kicked off on TOP because of the article.  You’ve still got it Ctein. 🙂

And just for completion, here is a comparison pair

On the left is the original NEF image. On the right the result of running it through Topaz AI Sharpen. Showing at 200% in Lightroom

For the technically ept.  Nikon D500, 500mm f/5.6 PF and a TC 1.4 Converter. NEF processed by Adobe Camera Raw
Nuff Said.


A Morning in Grey Box Forest

Long time readers will no doubt recall that I often claim to have Grey Box sap running in my veins.

These amazing old trees are the superstructure for the type of forest and forest birds that I really enjoy working with. And as Woodlands Historic Park has such an untouched stand of Grey Box, its not hard to see why I love it as I practically learned my forest birds craft out there.

Another find stand of Grey Box is at Eynesbury near Melton.

Every second month the local Eynesbury Environmental Group, here’s their facebook page, conducts a morning walk in the forest for interested locals and visitors.
Chris Lunardi does a super job of getting us out in to the forest to look at some of the lesser visited areas and to find interesting birds.

Chris also seems to have an amazing ability to chose days where the weather is kind. And this past Sunday was no exception.

Probably the highlights of the day were a pair of very vocal Peregrine Falcon, and several sightings of  Diamond Firetails.
Diamond Firetails often are found around the lawns and golf greens in good numbers, and occasionally a few birds through the bush.  We managed to find them in 4 locations throughout the day.

Here’s a visual summary.

Brown Treecreeper
Tree Martin hard at work collecting mud
Superb Fairywren defending his terrritory
Peregrine Falcon
A Good News story. Maned Duck family out for a stroll.
Sulpher-crested Cockatoo.
Always a favourite at Eynesbury. Jacky WInter.
Summer visitors are strarting to arrive.
Dusky Woodswallow
Signature Bird: Diamond Firetail.