Photographic Essay: Tradies

I was getting breakfast the other morning when some movement on the fence outside caught my attention.

Tai Chi Pigeon,(Spotted Dove) and her mate were carrying sticks over the fence to build a nice new nursery under the gazebo of the house next door.

In the time it took me to boil the kettle, between them they had made 6 trips for building materials.

And so it went on for quite awhile.

In the end, EE and I went for our morning “Exercise”, and the sun came out. More on that walk another time.

When we arrived home, Tai Chi and its mate had done their day’s work, and were tucked up against the backdoor enjoying a well earned rest in the sunshine.

Photobombed by a passing Blackbird

Saturday Evening Post #100: Settling

Gotta admit when I started Saturday Night Posts, I didn’t know that I’d have made it to 100 posts. 🙂

Do you have the patience
to wait till your mud settles
and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
Lao Tzu.


Part of a much longer description of “The Masters”, from Chapter 15 of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching.

The main point being Patience. I’ve totted it up, it seems that by the time we are able regain some real freedom from the lockdown, I will have spent more days at home this year, than days being free to move about.  Not much of a record really.

So I am indeed waiting for the right action to arise by itself.

Tai Chi Pigeon, (a Spotted Dove) has been giving her own version of all this the past few weeks.

After much courting and mateship displays I thought that she would have been setting up a house for her precious young and already been sitting on eggs.
But, No.

She’s been sitting on the fence, literally, for the past few weeks.

Then yesterday morning the mud must have settled.
I want it to settle quickly, I want to be out and about in relative freedom.

Tai Chi pigeon on the other hand  has simply has been waiting. Having the patience of her species to wait for the way to clear. She remained unmoving until the right action arose.  Then, she began.

It is not a wonder to me that the ancient documents, like Lao Tzu’s, the parables of the Carpenter from Nazareth, Egyptian stories, the Original People’s of Australia and the Americas, the list is quite long, all make use of observations from their around.
The return of a bird, the blossoming of a tree, the melting of ice, or the flooding of a river, each in its own way are exemplars of waiting for the way to become clear.

Tai Chi pigeon had found her ideal nesting spot, under the eave of the next-door neighbour’s pergola. The rest  of the morning was a frantic backwards and forwards with increasingly large sticks to complete her little home.
Not that they are noted for their nest building creativity. A few sticks, bundled up, and everybody sits and hangs on. 🙂
Last year it was the standard rose in the house across the road, then two failed attempts in a small ornamental tree, the branches of which were hardly strong enough to support the dove’s weight, let along withstand the rigours of use and weather.

So while I wait feverishly the end of our lockdown, Tai Chi pigeon, has offered me another little lesson in waiting.
Because she is ready for whatever happens. Things don’t have to be just so… Things just have to be the way they are.

 

Photographic Essay: Dad’s Rules, or Dad Rules

The poor old male Black-shouldered Kite, in the this case, Bronson, has to put up with a lot as his young aeronauts learn the ways of Black-shouldered Kite.

He gets yelled at for more food, buffeted and bounced about the sky by his inept, but over-enthusiastic young and pushed from his perch if they decide to land near him, and do it rather inelegantly.

Yet, for the most part he seems to take it all with good grace, and just gets on with the job. Perhaps he sees it as part of the drama of doing business with the young birds.

However, there are several rules that he seems to have, and enforces.

One of the rules is that there should be no in-fighting among the young ones. Each will get a turn at food, or his attention.
Another relates to landing rights, and if one of the young should knock its sibling from the perch while landing then consequences are inevitable and he’ll step in.
Another rule seems to be if he is busy preparing for a hunt, then he will not be interrupted by one of the young landing nearby and calling at him.

His major, and most enforceable rule seems to be if the young ones in their enthusiasm and lack of skill decide to take to the air to defend against passing Kestrels, Falcons and Black Kites.
He will then herd the young one back out of the way, giving it a bit of  a clip for its troubles.
Then of course he has to go and defend against the now aggrieved foe.

His major method appears to be a clip on the back with his claws.  Because he can still outfly them, well at least at the beginning, it seems to be quite a successful method.

Here are a few instances

Never knock Dad off his perch. In this case the young one had managed to get a grip of one of his legs instead of the branch, and couldn’t let go.
As the young one tried to find a new perch, Bronson came it an gave it a clip on the back
Bronson pursuing the young one back to the nesting area.
Suitably chastised the young one headed for a rest at the nesting site

Bronson had landed hoping to have a top-up meal. In a sneak attack the young one managed to get a grip of the mouse and pulled him from the tower.
C’mon Dad, time for a feed. This is the eldest of the two females, and she obviously inherited her mother’s bossy gene.
She had given him either a peck or a push to move him on.

This young one had decided to land on the same top branch as its sibling. Not enough room for two, and the first one had to yield.
Within a few seconds Bronson had arrived and a quick clip on the back, you can see a feather flying, and the young one was forced off the branch
An angry Dad with the wings down.

Foolishly this young one decided to defend against a grown Nankeen Kestrel. The much more agile Kestrel was prepared to take the attack to the young one. Dad would have to set in.
Dad’s Rules
Now he has to hunt the young one away from the Kestrel.
And a good clip on the back will be its punishment. He then had see off the angry Kestrel.

Saturday Evening Post #99 : Back to the 80s

My Ballarat connection daughter, Face-timed the other night. She is a girl of the 80s and we started to talk about the songs of that era, and the parody they are now to the current Lockdown restrictions.

It kind of ended up with us rolling on the floor laughing as we tried to recall as many as we could that had something to say about our current situation. Our politicians haven’t helped by adding such euphemisms as “Getting on the Bus” and “Roadmap Forward”, which no doubt could in themselves make great song titles.
I, of course was at a disadvantage as most of my recollection of the times was telling her to “turn that music down”

Here is a hit parade we came up with. Not in any real order, but it made us smile.

  1.  ACCA DACCA:  “Highway to Hell
  2. The Police: “Don’t stand so close to me”
  3. U2 “With or without you”
  4. Talking Heads: “Road to Nowhere.”
  5. Whitney Houston: “I wanna dance with somebody”
  6. INXS: “Never Tear Us Apart”
  7. Bowie and Queen: “Under Pressure”
  8. Queen: “I want to break free” or “Another one bites the dust” (we were getting silly then)
  9. Fleetwood Mac: “Everywhere”
  10. edited UPDATE Dire Straits: “So Far Away”… from me.
  11. Cyndi Lauper: “Girls just want to have fun”,
    I let that in as I thought of two more, although not really 80s
  12. Elvis: “In the Ghetto” and SkyHooks, “Horror Movies, the Six Thirty News”In the end we had a giggle and it gave me some food for thought

My Saturday morning read these days includes a topical piece by Virginia Trioli, on how the lockdown has left many feeling broken, and how most of our communication is via screen, through glass or from behind a mask.

But, one of the things she shared is a link to a new Bruce Springsteen release, “Letter to You”.  You can find the vid at the bottom of her piece.

Now I have to say its pretty much typical Bruce, he is a great entertainer, but to me, after awhile they do begin to sound the same, I once used his, “My hometown”, for an event, so I’m not unsympathetic.
His “Streets of Philadelphia” for the Tom Hanks movie is really quite a sensitive statement.
So back to “Letter to You”
It’s worth a  look at the vid, as it’s all been shot in black and white, most of it in stills, and most in the studio where I presume the song was put down.
Turn the music down, and watch the clarity and expressions that the mono vision brings out.   Says a lot about the power of photojournalism to reach into the soul of the moment.
Enjoy

Photographic Essay: Ground Work

Once they have mastered the art of flying, the young Black-shouldered Kites were introduced to working on the ground.
After all mice don’t fly, so they would have to spend part of their hunt on the ground.

In first few attempts that I witnessed they showed more of a fascination of what was on the ground, rather than any attempt to ‘look’ for food.

They seemed to enjoy laying down on the ground and rubbing their tummies along the gravel or grass.
Chewing the grass was another peculiar activity.

Slowly but surely they gained enough experience to hunt through the grass and while never successful at least they were on the way to developing the necessary skills.

Looking through the damp grass

They are not designed to walk around on the grass and tend to ‘roll’ along like sailors on a deck
Time for a portrait
A little tummy rub on the gravel
This one was sitting behind a clump of grasses and came out to see me when I showed up.

Fascinated by the taste of grass.
Another tummy rub on the wet grass.
I know you’re down there.
Now able to drop into the grass silently.

Saturday Evening Post #98: Back to the Future

“The sanest man Sets up no deed, Lays down no law, 
Takes everything that happens as it comes, 
As something to animate, not to appropriate, 
To earn, not to own, 
To accept naturally without self-importance:
If you never assume importance You never lose it..”
Lao Tzu

One of the blog posts I regularly follow has been that of Ming Thein (MT)
Over the years his insight into the creative photo process and his attention to detail in technique has always offered new ideas and directions. His clear and reasoned explanations of the elements of a photograph, form, shape, tone, texture, point of view and the like, has always been interesting, and I have to say that not always did I agree, but that is part of the fun of looking at someone’s work.
But MT has called his blog time over.

In the same week, Kirk Tuck over at Visual Science Lab is also calling an end to his current blog as he is off to pursue some video options.

“I see myself writing less and less about new photography gear and new picture making practices. ..  I’m not anxious to watch my writing devolve into some personal pathos about lost life opportunities, bad decision making, therapy or diets. Or “how we did things in the golden age of photography.”
I have recently (finally) come to grips with the whole concept that, in what’s left of the commercial imaging world, you can do quite well with a smart phone and a suite of programs to enhance your smartphone photos, with less hassle and less time spent than “doing them the right way.”

Sad to see them both go, but fully understand their individual reasons.

Truth be told, as the weeks of lockdown have deteriorated into months, that I find it much  more difficult to warp out words that are relevant and encouraging. There are only so many stories from my own ‘golden age of photography’, only so much pathos that I’d be inclined to share online.

Saw an ad on the tv the other night (Yes, you read that right. Me, watching tv), from Apple. The tag line was, Taken[and Edited] on an iPhone, lots of flashy coloured splashes, and some clever image size, and perspective things to ponder over, and it just confirmed to me that the future of photography is going to do what it has always done.  Change, evolve and find new markets, new vision and new visual experiences.

In another life I once made a presentation at a major photographic convention, just at the turn of digital, and indicated as photographers we have always been “on the cutting edge” of technology.
In the beginning we used to shoot only glass plates, then flexible film.
We began with Monochrome Images, who would have thought of colour.
Rangefinder cameras gave way to Single Lens Reflex.
Bulky studio lights gave way to sparkling electronic flash
Formal indoor portraits became rich environmental, tomorrow pictures (as Don Nibbelink coined).
Digital began for us as scanning from negatives and transparencies. Now we think in terms of 61Megapixel sensors and look beyond that.
Not unsurprisingly at the time, a lot of what I said was dismissed as ‘activist nonsense’ by the organisers.
Well.

And as my Tai Chi Master would say,  “If an art is simply a repetition, then it will fade and die.  For the Art  to live on and grow it must find opportunity to express the old in new ways”.

Me, I’m looking forward to our times in the field. To look for and work with the birds again.  To hopefully bring back some new fresh stories of our amazing natural world.

Been delving through the archives of late.  Not much else to do really, amazing to find moments or opportunities with birds that I had overlooked.

White-winged Choughs are a favourite bird. I am happy to spend hours in their company. Many will tell they  find them difficult to photograph. To the contrary, I’ve sat on logs in the forest and have them hunt over the log, around my feet and sit on the log and preen.  Talking all the time.
Choughness is a compelling life.

This one was only a few seconds before the ‘guard’ in the tree. The communal life means they share various activities among the flock. It had been relieved of its sentry duty and wafted down to enjoy a rummage among the leaf-litter.

Looking forward to the ‘Roadmap Ahead’ tomorrow, or as Sean McCaullif said, “With all this social-distancing, what is the point of being a Hermit!”

Remain

Photographic Essay: Feeding your Black-shouldered Kite

Firstly I was sent this link by a friend, and I thought it struck a similar chord to some of my recent meanderings on visualisation.  It also has some useful in-the-field bird photography advice.  Funny how it’s taken a lockdown for people to realise that ‘awareness’ is not some app on a phone.
Tiny Wonders by Jessica Martin ABC News

She talks about developing a “Sense of Awe”

Quick quote,
“In many ways, then, these tiny, simple things we’ve been savouring lately — a flower, a bird’s pitch-perfect trill, how the sun hits the wet grass after a night of heavy rain — are the big things.

There are silver linings in all this.”

Hope you find it encouraging.


Back to the Kites.
I’m just now getting to working through the images of a couple of months back to consolidate them into working groups of similar actions or events.

The young had been on the wing for a couple of weeks and had developed their in-flight feeding skills.  Poor old Bronson, had more work than a one-armed paperhanger keeping up with their voracious hunger.  The female, Belle, seems to play no part in their early training or feeding once they are on the wing.

From The Global Headquarters of the Doona Hermit

Remain

Look out Dad, here I come
Timing is right, speed is right, direction is right, eyes on the target.
Release the Claws!
Nailed it
Dad won’t let go until he’s certain the young one has a proper grip.
This one missed the speed, angle and accuracy tests. Need to go around again.
To help, Dad readjusted his grip.
More speed, but this time an overshoot.
Take Three, timing looks better here
Whoa! where did the mouse go.
Where’s my mouse!!
Hard to keep them filled up and quiet.