Studio Werkz: A Step back in Time

For those new readers, Studio Werkz, was the proposed name of a ‘Studio Alliance”, by a group of photographers ever-so-long ago. I’ve blogged here about the formation and dissolution, (all in 24hours), so won’t belabour here.

However everytime I get the chance to make a portrait of a bird, I find myself pondering why studio offers so many opportunities to bring out the character of the subject.

It is about lighting, it is about backdrop and it is about the magic moment when the subject no longer is “having a portrait taken”, but allows an insight into their life. A sparkle in the eye, a wry grin, leaning forward, turning the body everso slightly, and there is the magic moment.

It’s like as one of my early mentors would say, “Like eavesdropping on a special moment. Developing a real sensitivity for a feeling that says so much. The lens, the camera, the lighting all are forgotten, it is the reaction that speaks visually.”

On my very first ever trip to the Western Treatment Plant many years back, I’d been travelling about the Plant with a very experienced birdo who graciously gave me a wonderful introduction to the area—so much so that I registered for access the following morning.

However, I hadn’t managed to achieve any significant pictures during our day, as we had little time to work with the birds.

After I picked up my car and was driving along 29 Mile Road on the way home, I spied this Brown Falcon sitting on the post in the late evening sunshine. Hesitantly I parked, and eased out of the vehicle, 500mm lens and beanbag.
Would Brown stay?

Now the falcons in the area are pretty used to vehicles speeding past, or even stopping, and have at least a passing tolerance for the human condition. Although what they really think of us is debatable.  Three things they they do give credit for, are lovely well spaced perching spaces, mice and rabbits.

Brown held.

And so I began to move about to get the best light, angle, and backdrop.  And for a brief moment it took me all in.
That was the going home shot.

Not more than a minute later, a vehicle approached and Brown felt the pressure and sniffing a light breeze turned and was gone.




One of my most published bird photos

10 thoughts on “Studio Werkz: A Step back in Time

  1. thats a stunning image of takeoff……sometimes I can see they are clearly watching me and listening to the camera clicks and I wonder what they are thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Nina, hope all is well with you and yours. We are pretty much the stay-at-homes so all quiet.
      I often think that Swamp Harriers can see the mirror rise and fall in the camera when I take the picture and that is enough to spook them to turn away.


  2. The lift off image is superb, David! The light play over the breast and through the wing is superb. It is an amazing experience to spend more than a fleeting moment with a bird, very special!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve learned a lot since that first journey, as JB said on the day, “this is indeed a magic place.”
      I think the Browns at the WTP are much more human conditioned than average, and will often stand their ground as vehicles go by. Its the human walking about that generally puts them in the air.


    1. Thanks Eleanor, sometimes the words pretty much just write themselves and I don’t have to struggle, this was one of those times. Mostly I think because it was a easy to write about the moment with this bird.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Stunning shots David, especially the lift off. I have found your little info tips you mention very helpful. I have become more thoughtful as to positioning my self around the subject in the past year or so, realising more about the light and backdrop than I use to. Your lift off photo is an excellent example of the difference between large bird take off and small bird, where they use their wings and small passerines spring with closed wings. I am starting to realize how much I miss my camera after 3 months without it when I see your beautiful images. Stay safe!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ashley, glad to help. I was still very much the photographer with birds when this series was made, took me a bit longer to really gain an insight into the way each species reacts.
      It is interesting that the small birds make a ‘leap of faith’ before throwing out the wings.
      There is an old Taoist tale, that tells of a master who was able to keep a sparrow in his open hand as he could move as the bird attempted to leave to dissipate the energy of the leap and it couldn’t get airborne. True? I’ve no idea, but it does say that the tiny bird’s need to ‘launch’ was well observed.

      Hope your camera will soon be fixed. I’ve been without equipment a number of times for repairs or servicing, and its frustrating to have to wait for a part to come for overseas.

      I’m looking forward to the next week or so, and we might be able to get a little relief and move about without fear of being fined. I’d be happy with a 30 minute radius.


      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is truly a magnificent portrait, superbly lit, meaningful and making me stop to ponder. I always think about “facial expression” when looking at or creating portraits of birds. Do they have faces? How is the facial expression possible under the coat of feathers? How to interpret the gaze of a bird? All in all we, humans, are able to appreciate portraits of birds as much as we appreciate those of people, painted or photographed (having just said that I am still to photograph a bird in the manner of a late Picasso 😉 .
    The take-off shot is mighty good.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. G,day Adam, they would make good poker players wouldn’t they!! When I first came to bird photography, I approached it much in the same was as a setup in a studio. I’ve not been one for getting just a shot of a bird for id. If it’s too far away, well, it is too far for me.
      I also ascribe to the conclusions of Jon Young, his book, “What the Robin Knows” begins to explain much more about bird knowledge and behaviour and what can be learned from it.
      Head turns, eye movement, bobbing, foot positioning wing display, may not be read in an anthropomorphic way, and conclude, “oh the bird is… ” But pieced together over a period of time, I’ve concluded that I can gain an feel of the character of the creature.
      However there are things that happen. Some birds allow close approaches, and some even get to the point of accepting my presence in their field. Red-capped Robins at Woodlands in some of my early blogs show that.
      I spent a season with a pair of Nankeen Kestrels, and she would hunt alongside me as I lay in the grass, many times I could have reached out and touched her. It is pretty humbling to have a raptor that close and be able to watch the rise and fall of its feathers as it breathes.

      I suspect the pics that we like most of birds is when they are doing something. At least we grasp that. But looking through the eyes into the intellegenses going on behind is not something we have a roadmap for. So we just guess. 🙂

      I’m a bit old school when it comes to lighting and surrounds. Some of the great images of yours have been as much about the form and shape of the bird as the magic of the light as it plays over the surfaces. You need to be there for that, and I have always been thrilled by your adept handling of the available light.

      So my feathered Picasso friend, Keep takin’ photos. We do.



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