Saturday Evening Post #71 Wings Out

One of the most sought after inflight poses for birds is the “Heraldic” form.

The doyen of the craft was an Englishman named Eric Hosking.  It is hard to appreciate the complexity and technical difficulties that Eric had to overcome, in this day of High ISO values, Ultra fast f/2 and f/2.8 lenses and long focal lengths, electronic flash and electronic release systems.  Yet some of his earliest and most influential work was made with a glass plate or sheet film camera.  Each darkslide had 2 exposures.
Yet, if you take the chance to view the EricHosking Gallery online or obtain a copy of some of his books, the work still is modern, fresh and extremely well detailed.

In any discussion of his work, several points will always be made.
1 His meticulous attention to detail.  His field note books contained observations and details that  advanced our understanding enormously.
2. His care for the subject he was working with. No photograph was worth endangering the bird. He went to great care to work in the bird’s world at its pleasure.
3.His endless enthusiasm for the subjects, their surrounds, the technical issues and opportunities to share his work with others.

It is so difficult to think of sitting in a hide, with just one piece of film (a glass plate of ISO less the 10) and having to prefocus where the bird ‘should’ be at the time of exposure, and then making just the right judgement to press the shutter. No burst at 16fps for Eric.

He had a most unfortunate accident early in his career with a Tawny Owl.  A hide had been built to photograph a Tawny Owl family, but late one night he had to return to the hide as he thought poachers were at work.  On entering the hide, the Tawny flew in, and and to quote from “Any Eye for a Bird”
There was not a sound, not even the whisper of a wing. But out of the silent darkness a swift and heavy blow struck my face. There was an agonising stab in my left eye.  I could see nothing. The owl, with its night vision, had dived-bombed with deadly accuracy, sinking a claw deep into the centre of my eye.”

Eric would lose the eye.

But he soon went back to work.

One of his greatest images is the heraldic owl.

This was made in 1948, and Eric describes it as a “One in a Million Pose”.

The basis of the shape of the image is the typical heraldic form of family crest.

That such a pioneer was able to give us so many fine images and be an inspiration to so many people, not just photographers, but naturalists and the general public is part of the tribute to his skills, and concern for his subjects.

I was working with a pair of Black-shouldered Kites.
The male lifted off the tree, and soon after the female took off along the track.
He was back in less than 30 seconds flat with a mouse.  And he immediately began work on devouring it. She turned up a minute or so later, carrying a freshly plucked stick, no doubt intending to do some work on a nest.
On seeing him, she changed direction, swung in, expecting I guess, to get a share of  his dinner, and wings out dropped the stick. (the header photo)
Then in a million to one moment, the wings were out in the heraldic fashion, and I heard Eric say, “Well done!”

Both shots have been through Nik Silver Efex Pro, just to keep the historic theme going.


8 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #71 Wings Out

    1. Hello Eleanor, thakns for that. I’ve several of Eric’s books, mostly resuced from second hand sales, and I’m always impressed by the clarity of the work, and how he managed to overcome the limitations of the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Fantastic image! A dream capture indeed! And thanks for taking me back to the work of Eric Hosking. Amazing to see what he achieved with the technology of his time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello David, it is humbling sometimes to consider that with not much more than field craft and perserverance that Eric could make such amazing shots. I’ve a book that has a Reed Warbler, that would be the envy of any spaceblox page. He also made a fantastic shot of a Bittern, its in “An Eye for a Bird”, and to be honest, I’ve not seen such a shot made by anyone recently that is even close to his photo.
      Still we keep trying, its why we go out.


  2. You are a goldmine of knowledge, David. I have just gone through the gallery with Eric Hosking photographs. Truly amazing how he managed to take those shots. Obviously he had to spot the nest first, then organise everything he needed to take a shot without disturbing the bird and, finally, stay there (presumably in some sort of a hide) and wait for the best moment to take pictures. I remember seeing his “Blackbird at nest in roll of wire” because it’s such powerful photography. To see his other work and reading your blog is an eye-opener. Your photos of Black-shouldered Kites are beautiful. Recently I see my “Windy with the stormy eyes” relatively often in Braeside and I’m trying to make the best of this encounters.
    As you can see I’m catching up with your Saturday Posts again and I’m off to those I haven’t read yet. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Adam, it is quite instructive I think to view Eric’s work. It was a different era also, and people were not as ‘rushed’ as today. We sat with a Black-shouldered Kite pair yesterday, for about 3 hours. Not much happens in those three hours, and then, action at lightning speed, and then they both sit quietly in their respective trees, and patiently wait.
      It’s very humbling.
      The great news is, that inspite of the dreadful weather, the rain, cold, and high winds, she seems to have hatched out a new crop. Yesterday they were feeding quite young hatchlings. Interesting to watch how much the food has to be prepared to offer to such tiny beaks. Hopefully by the time we get back the young will be half grown.
      Re WIndy with Stormy Eyes. Love the name. To be honest the weather hasn’t been all that kind to bird or photographer. We just struggle along. They accept it as the cost of doing business.
      Keep takin’ photos. We do.

      Liked by 1 person

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