Saturday Evening Post #88 :Everybody needs One

We all need one, it’s a simple thing.

I know it’s just a play on words, but in light of last week’s procrastination blog, I thought we all needed a Round Tuit.

Here tis.

Here is the poem,

This is a round tuit. Guard it with your life!
Tuits are hard to come by, especially the round ones.
It will help you become a much more efficient worker.
For years you’ve heard people say “I’ll do that when I get a round tuit.”
So now that you have one, you can accomplish all those things you put aside until you got a Round Tuit.

Another of those clever sayings I recall as a young bloke, was,

Be A Lert.  Australia needs more Lerts.

Now you can get it on printed t-shirts.

I had sort of planned to do a couple of photoessay stories during the week, however  some family issues took precedent and EE and I also had to meet David Nice down at the Black-shouldered Kites.

So, the day simply filled out with things, a lert or tuit not withstanding.

I managed to find one of the young sitting under the tree canopy, but occasionally as the breeze blew a small shaft of light would cross over the bird’s body. The rest required I find the suitable background and wait for the bird, and the sunlight to align.

When you are a young Black-shouldered Kite, and waiting your turn for the next free handout, the wait can be quite a long time. I quickly grew tired of pointing the lens at the bird, and it wasn’t moving, and the sunlight still hadn’t moved sufficiently to break through the canopy.

Then in one of those universe moments I often refer to, the bird, the light and the photographer were all on tracks that intersected, and the job was done.

I’ve been reading of late, a book on Life Magazine—and will comment more when I’ve had a more thorough look, but I wanted to make this image in the style of Life.
So a trip into my favourite Black and White converter, Nik Silver EfexPro 2, opened up all sorts of possibilities.

I’m not a great fan of post production work, but have to say that I throw all that advice out the window in Silver EP.   So I spent a few minutes looking for the dark moody Life motif.  Then I added a touch of Selenium (always my favoured toner), to give the dark areas some depth.

Job done.

As a bonus, I’m including a link to my Lightroom Web page where there are a few shots from earlier in the day when one of the young was in a problem solving mode. Hope you find it interesting.

Use this link, Problem Solving
Oh, and I’ve added the original colour and then the mono version of this image as well.

If you double click on the thumbnails, it should open up as a slide show with some text explanation of what’s going on.


Saturday Evening Post #87 : The fine art of procastination

I was searching the web, as you do, t’other day, and Dear Old Uncle G. threw up a search find, that was just about irrelevant to my search.
However it did have a line of thought that intrigued me.

Mostly because it’s an affliction that I have been surrounded by for a few years now.

The point being, “Help, My Photos are being Held Ransom by computer software management programmes (programs).”

Like the bedraggled writer I too am overwhelmed by gigabytes of images, all sitting on a harddrive(s), on DVDs, USB Thumbdrives, and an assortment of other ‘storage’ devices that have scattered my photos landscape.

Yes, I hear people cry, but they are carefully catalogued, selected, and sorted into various albums, collections, folders and “Smart Albums”, so you’ll have no problem finding them.

True, I weakly reply.

But, none-the-less, they are not accessible all the time, I can’t recall ever getting excited about going over the 27,890 pictures in my 2015 Collection.  To be practical, I don’t even know what’s there.  They are held ransom by the very technology that is supposed to administer them. I can’t even hold them up to the light and search through them. Drives don’t work like that.

Oh, let’s create Slideshows, Photo Books, print them out, share them online,  and the like.

And that is where my other failing raises its ‘ugly’ head.
It’s easier to procrastinate,  and it’s not really an act of despair-more an act of rebellion.   I think I am beginning to Not Care, about the unseen photos in the March 2012 directory.

Because, as the writer points out, we need to spend the time to ‘Process’ them. It’s why we shot them in raw to begin with. And that is my failing. I don’t want to spend the time in front of the computer wading through those directories, just to find the “Nuggets of Gold” I’ve overlooked and will eventually get around to “Processing”. It’s enough to drive me back to shooting JPEG. 🙂
And just in case you are pondering a hopeless case, each year does indeed have an album of the Best of the Best for that year. Carefully culled from among the Dross to represent that year.

If I used Star Ratings, these would be my Number 5 Stars.
Probably also get a Colo(u)r label.
Certainly a Keyword (Best of Best) ?—which is how I do it—to be able to seperate them out.

But the rest? Hijacked. Not only held to ransom, but probably never to be thought of again.
I just won’t pay the ransom price of “Processing” them.

I have  boxes of slides that go back more than 50 years, and they too are going to suffer from never being seen again.

The reality is, that I think I’m more excited and interested in the pictures I’ve recently taken, and the ones that I’m going to take in the future.

Ramble Over.

We were out with the young kites on a cold, windless morning.  The sunlight was clear and bright.

First one, and then another of the young Black-shouldered Kites took to the air, and headed out over the open fields.
Swooping, diving, climbing, jinking left and right.
Reminded me of young lambs kicking up their heels.
I thought it must have been enjoying the freedom of flight and life as it flew across the paddock with backlight running through the mists coming from the warming grass, I couldn’t help but pause and enjoy the moment with it. Then the second one came out, and they sprinted up and down the verge on the freeway, looking like pups chasing vehicles.

The serious business of living a Black-shouldered Kite life put aside in the joy of the moment.

Here ’tis.


Photographic-Essay: Annoying Relatives

It happens just about every-time.
You settle in for a quiet meal-in peace, and a hungry, noisy relative drops by looking for a little bit of the action.

One young Black-shouldered Kite had just recieved a top-up from Dad.
Time to find a quiet branch.
Then, with the usual racket, one of the close relatives drops in to see if there is a handout.

This looked like a good branch to enjoy a quiet snack
Hey, hey, here I come, any for me?
I’m here, are you going to share?
Short answer is obviously No!
Checking that it didn’t leave anything behind.
Now to find a better spot
Lunch in the sun. More than picnic.

Photographic-Essay: Landing Right(s)

As the young local Black-shouldered Kites have continued to grow, they reached the point where all the necessary training had ended, and they needed to take a leap-of-faith and step off the trees and taste the thrill of flight.

It is interesting to watch how they tackle this major step, and I’ve often wondered if there isn’t some internal brain function that kind of switches on the ‘Let’s Go’ signal, and they finally ease their grip on branch or leaf, and suddenly find themselves free.


All the training does not prepare them for the next event.


With no aeronautical skills to speak of, they resort to a simple, crash into the leaves at the top of the tree. Surprisingly, they are not very heavy, and the whole momentum thing doesn’t seem to harm them in anyway.  After a little they even begin to figure out how to slow things down a bit, and sort of just ‘lob’ into the leaves.

Within a couple of days, they have most of the skills for landing on branches, and soon they can practice high-speed manoeuvres and swing in on just about any branch from any angle.

So here is a week or so’s worth of flight and landing shots.  They are but a smallish collection as we’ve had a few good days with them over the past week.

I’ve also begun to make some Shared Photos Albums on Lightroom Web.

Here is the address for this current set.

I’m thinking in future to put the bulk of the story pictures there, and then insert a link in the weblog. This means I can share a few more of the event without filling up  the page here on WordPress.

Hope it works for you. Feedback welcome.

Before you can fly you must stretch the wings and build up the muscles. Not easy when you siblings won’t give you any room.
EHHHH yaaaa!
Help!!! Look out here I come
No speed control, and not much finesse.
Error of comedy. The top one had landed successfully, its sibling wants part of the action. But landing on a vertical branch offers new challenges
Ok, locked on, now to fold up the sails, trying not to knock off the other bird
Simply not enough room for both to balance, the first bird yields the space.
This one missed the branch and tumbled through the gap.
Balance, balance, balance, hold tight, balance. I think I can do it.
Full on hit the leaves, and get close to the other bird
It couldn’t get a grip and nearly knocked the other bird from its precarious perch.
Long distance shot. The little bird had wanted to get close to Dad, but knocked him from the stick, unfortunately it grabbed his foot as a landing spot. The big fella was not happy.
Rocking back and forward trying to right the body angle.
Trying to land on the top of close comms tower.
Up, Up, Up, but.
It ran out of lift before it brushed off speed and hit the tower sideways
Two weeks on the wing, and the smallest of targets are achievable.

Saturday Evening Post #86: Needing Space

It is a truism, I suppose that we all need space.  One marketing group I used to work for had a motto of, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” Worked for them. Mind, as a group, they have now gone the way of the dodo.

We’ve been overwhelmed by the term, “Social Distancing”, and as a physician I read the other day said, “It should be called Physical Distancing, we need to keep the social interaction”  But, again, such are the ways of marketing.

And just as we have personal connections, even if it only be through “Zoom”, so in the natural world.
Everything in the natural world is connected to everything else.  Ripples on the water make wonderful poetry from the reflections of the trees. Watching a cat soak up and enjoy the warming sunshine. The final journey of an orange-red leaf, as its work over, it falls, for its next connection as it replenishes the earth.

As a nature photographer, with a commercial photography background, I can’t help but sometimes make connections not only to the creature, but also to its habitat, habits, community connections, and how it links into the wider world around. For commercial, (product) photographers, the subject needs to have a connection to its surrounds. It’s not just a laundry basket, but a basket to carry clothes, useful in its setting by the washing machine.

We have, EE and I, and David Nice, been following a pair of local Black-shouldered Kites in their nesting process. And it has all come to fruition in three healthy, active and overly-enthusiastic young fledglings.

Now about 10 days on the wing, their training will change to learning to hunt for themselves. Life outside the nest, is for them a matter of innumerable connections, from the weather, the availability of food, through to finding a mate and beginning their own opportunities to add to the species.

Currently Dad-he is the main provider-is beginning to encourage them to recognise potential food opportunities

And so it was.

I was sitting in the long grass on a small hillock, watching the young fly out and back waiting for Dad to turn up with a meal.

And the time dragged on.

After much waiting, calling and wing-flapping, first one, then another landed on a tree just in front of me. A bit above eyelevel.

There they sat. Crying occasionally, preening, and watching for Dad.

After a time, a real change occurred in their behaviour as they began to take more than a passing interest in the grassy area just to my left. Literally.  Head bobbing, peering and stepping left and right.  It was obvious that something had happened that made a hungry young kite aware.

One dropped.

Off the branch, into the grass and just on my left. Maybe 6-7 metres.  Now whatever had been there was well gone to safety, but our young kite was not one to give up, and proceeded to check around the grass. It completely ignored my presence and EE who was a bit further around on the other side of the tree.
I’ve said it before, but there is something deeply touching about being so close to a raptor that you can see its feathers rise and fall as it breaths.

The light was late afternoon, we, the bird and I,  were in the shade of the hillock, and that soft melded light seemed to suit the mood of a powerful raptor engaged in an experimental life moment.

Satisfied that it had missed a food opportunity, it lifted off, and flew over me, the wing noise was discernible.  A loop around the tree and it went over EE at a little over head-height, and she smiled enjoying the moment.


Photographic-Essay: Training Your Black-shouldered Kite, an Attitude of Gratitude.

The blog has been a bit quiet of late.  And as one of my mentors David DuChemin says, “My heart has run out of words.”  Between social changes, and restrictions, to a world-wide outpouring of grief and cry for justice, it has left some with mental whiplash.

Yet as David says, “We’ve got so much, we are healthy, safe, and have gratitude for what we do have.”  For those who don’t know David’s work, he has been involved for over twenty years with several NGOs (Non Government Organisations) at work in several countries, including Africa, India and Afghanistan. And he says of the current situations, “I hope it has long been abundantly clear that I will always fall on the side of compassion, justice, the oppressed and the broken. I just don’t have words right now.”

Words just don’t seem sufficient.
So while I’ve been quiet, in-fact there have been a few things happening in the field.
All of them items for which both EE and I are grateful that we have been graced to enjoy.

  • My Flickr friend, and commenter on our blog, David Nice, was kind enough to advise of the location of a nesting pair of Black-shoulded Kites.
  • We managed a week of really great weather.
  • Shivering cold mornings and glorious sunny days.
  • Windless weather.
  • Right in the middle of the young Black-shoudlered Kites fledging and learning to hunt.

There are a lot of images here. Mind, it is but a tiny part of the bulging folio of photo-story that EE and I have been able to make over the past couple of weeks.

Let’s begin at the end, today, and see how these amazing little creatures are beginning their lives.

Dad herding one of his young back to the nesting area. It had decided to see if it could join him on a hunt. Not likely. To move it along he gave it a wing clip as he went by.
Suitably chastised it headed for the tree.
The rich colours are impressive
Dad arriving with a mouse and getting plenty of attention
This snack goes to the nest area, and the young are quick to follow.
Next food top-up he hovered out in the open, dangling the mouse. But the young one’s didn’t quite get the idea
Another delivery and this time one of them decided that it was worth the effort to get its own snack.
Locked on and speed slowing down.
Hard to imagine the calculations going on in the young head.
Looks like its locked on to use the left claw for the contact
At the last moment, instead it swings in with the right claw. Also Dad has repositioned the mouse so that it will make contact.His legs are closer together as he moved the mouse over.
Target acquired
Dad waits until its all secure before releasing
“My work here is Done”
To the victor the spoils.
Here is another transfer, this time on a branch. A dangerous move as the young one can easily knock him from the branch.
Again he waits until it is secure before letting go.
No mouse here!
Youngster mantling over its successful transfer.

Saturday Evening Post #85 : Mr. Smith, is the only good light available light?”

AudioAdam, sent me a wonderful note after last week’s SEP.

Essentially the question was, “To Flash, or NOT to Flash”, regarding using additional light to enhance the subject and the moment.

It is an interesting question and Adam is not the first to think to ask.  The irrepressible Joe McNally, then a student, asked of visiting lecturer, the famed photojournalist, W. Eugene Smith,

” Mr. Smith, is the only good light available light?”

Gene Smith responded somewhat along the lines.  “Yes,”  and to quote Joe, ‘from that moment on I vowed to only use the God-given light that fell on subjects’.  That was the touchstone.

But, Smith, took an alternate drink from first a glass of milk, and then a vodka, and continued…

“By that, I mean, any &*%%@$ light that’s available.”

The doyen of flash photography and birds was Eric Hosking.  Eric solved and developed flash solutions for working with birds nigh on 90 years ago. Some of his pictures are still the gold standard for flash photography for birds.

If you think carrying a small flash unit into the bush is a pain, then consider that Eric initially had to carry over 100 kg of gear, which included 12 V car batteries.

Let it also be said, that I am a great believer in Electronic Flash, much of the magazine work I’ve done over the years has been primarily lit by flash.  In days of yore, your scribe could be seen carrying at least two Metz 502 units to the wedding ceremony or deb ball.

We eventually bought into the Nikon system at the time, because of the clever Nikon Flash System Controllers.  (Canon did catchup.)
So when I came to bird photography I did for quite a while use flash regularly.

I shot two seasons of Kestrel nesting with mostly flash support.
Here’s a shot of one of the cameras, and the flash off to the right, subject left.  Oh, its camoed not because it fools the birds, just to stop people asking what I was doing in the middle of the paddock. I used to respond, “Well, as you can see, I’m up a ladder, cleaning out the gutters”, but I gave up trying to explain.  Off to the left in the shot is a radio release receiver, as I used to sit in the treeline about 50m back.

One of the joys of working with flash is a liability with focal plane shutters, the type on DSLR cameras.  It limits the top speed to at best 1/250th of a second.  Hardly enough for good outside shots in daylight.  What I want it to be able to balance the exposure for the best daylight rendition, and then add just enough flash to fill-in some shadow details, but not overpower the shadows and appear like its the main light source.

In the Nikon system, and no doubt the same in Canon, I can run the shutter speed higher using a clever, FP HighSpeed Sync.  Now instead of one single actuation of flash, the flash unit fires off several shorter, less powerful bursts so that the entire frame receives the flash. (Not time to explain all this, just gotta go with it)


In shorter bursts, they are less powerful, and don’t travel great distances, or fill large areas.  Ahh, enter the Inverse Square Law. ISL. (Nuff said.)
However it helps make great for sunlight fill in.

What about at night?  One of the main uses I guess.  And because of that pesky ISL, the subject closeup gets the right amount of light, the backdrop behind does not, and things go black.  Nuff said. Not going to explain the use of several flash-units and their placement in this blog.  Hey, it’s Saturday Night.

So to our lead Image.
This is Mr Darcy. He has just arrived back with a snack for his growing brood.  Unfortunately they had only just that morning flown, and were sitting in another tree wondering how they got there.  He looks a bit perplexed. The nest hole is directly below him—Empty!

Tech details, D200, 600mm f/5.6 manual focus Nikon, 1 SB600 unit off to the right.



And another with the same details.

This is my branch

I once sent this to one of those “Nature are Us” competitions, and it was rejected.
1. Shot in Studio. 2. Captive bird.
Go figure.

And just so you don’t go wandering off all over the web looking for inspiration, here is a final from Joe McNally

“…all the shouldas, couldas, and wouldas that befuddle our brains and creep into our dreams, always remember to make room to shoot what you love.
It’s the only way to keep your heart beating as a photographer.”



Studio Werkz: Melded Light

Beauty Dishes are all the rage at the portrait studios.  Not a fav light of mine as I’ve never been a photographer of young 20-30yr hopefuls who want to not only look like Kim Kardashian, but BE her. The tight parabolic driven light helps put some enriching shadows for depth and yet keeps the boldness of the well-lit facial planes.  And although I don’t use one, it’s a simple light to set up as the light doesn’t ‘go everywhere’. Sort of like a little theatre in an ‘itty-bitty space’—(Genie- Aladdin).

Yet it has to be said, my favourite beauty light is a soft-melding light that pours itself over the subjects features and just stops short of creating deep dark shadows.  Depending on the size of the light source, (think great big grey sky, or perhaps early sunrise/late sunset reflecting from clouds), a melded light will also provide sufficient modelling to keep the 3D feel for a subject. Smaller light sources, full window light, or light coming in under tree-tops also will help with the modelling of the features.

Gone are the day of bulky tungsten lighting stands and burnt fingers changing bulbs, and gone are the those impossible ‘umbrella’ stands with their coloured foil linings. Yeshh!

The very early studio portraitists worked with an amazing medium. Available light.  The studio was always on the top floor of a building and was glass-roofed, and glass-sided. With wonderful arrangements of light and dark curtaining to control and direct light.

Here tis.


Now it is true to say, that I don’t wear such a suit to photograph birds, and I’ve significantly less hair than our studio operator, but look at the way the shadows go on for ever.
Even in this simple take.

EE and I feel to a bit of luck, good luck, instead of that other unmentionable kind. We located at Woodlands, on a bright sunny day, a feeding flock of Flame Robins. Accompanying them, at least in the areas I suspect was her ‘territory’ was a single, lone, female Red-capped Robin.
We were in no hurry, and she had her whole territory to work through.  A bit like going to a relative’s house and sitting in the kitchen talking while food preparation was going on.

At one point she flew behind a nearby tree, and then pounced on a snack, and popped back onto a close branch, and at the same time the sun came out and soft melded light cascaded under the trees and neatly framed her.

Enough of the sunshine hit the grasses behind to give her a pleasing backdrop and all I had to do was press the shutter.

Photography, that it could always be that simple.