Saturday Evening Post #106: For the Love of Light

Someone once said, “Everything that comes from the camera, comes from the heart (Source: Your humble editor)

Now you might instantly think of some of the great emotive pictures that have been taken. The sharing of precious intimate moments between a grandmother and granddaughter perhaps.  The smile of proud family members at a graduation. The joy and delight of opening a special present.
All heart sharing experiences.

Alternatively you might recall photographs that have told of less happy moments or have shown  in great graphic details the destruction of the earth’s resources or man’s inhumanity toward fellow earth inhabitants.
All heart sharing experiences.

But.   There are other times when photographs are taken, merely in a mechanical or perhaps perfunctory way.
A tourist steps out of the bus into some historically important area, snaps of 2 or 3 shots, and goes into the local bistro for a meal.
Recently I saw some photos taken at the Grand Canyon.  Most of the people in the photo were more engrossed in what was on their mobile phone than the vista around them.
Heart sharing experiences still. But a heart that is not invovled in the mood, feeling or light of the moment.

As photographers we used to talk a lot about the “Language of Light”. Nowadays the discussion is almost always about what creative style, filter or add-on that can be applied in post production. My guess is because the heart is not in the photo experience, but is enamoured by some ‘Wow factor’ the designer has chosen.

Joe McNally, has a video training programme called “The Language of Light”. Joe has developed a visual style that is somewhat easily recognised. Great use of light, clever settings, the right model, and brilliant use of the medium.

In my formative years the concepts of the Language of Light was a major skill that was ‘drilled’ into neophytes. One of my early mentors spoke of it as, “We start with a dark canvas-the shadows- and we paint on that canvas with our brushes- the light.  Each stroke reveals a little about our subject.  When we have revealed enough, we stop. The remaining shadows help to set the mood.”

We were required to be able to discuss some of the major elements of the language.
The Direction. Where was the light coming from. Front, side, back, overhead, diffuse etc.

The Colour. These days we fiddle with White Balance, but it used to be called Colour Temperature.  Blues tend toward cool, Reds tend to stir the senses. Greens can be calming. These days there’s a slider for that. 🙂

The Quality. Hard midday sun, soft diffused, rim light, chiaroscuro. And how we handle it with scrims, flash fill, diffusers and filters.

The Quantity. And how we handle exposure. Too much, the mood might be lost, too little we struggle for delineation of the subject. Good light-bad light. Or perhaps just light that doesn’t match the subject or mood.

As learning photographers, we had to be able to discuss those terms at length, and sure enough on the end-of-the-year exam paper would be such a question.

Q 123. (5 points)
You are given a white china plate and a polished silver fork. Discuss your choice of light and what steps you would take to keep the detail of the plate while maintaining the filagree of the fork. (Use a diagramme if necessary)

Huh!, If necessary.  If you didn’t sketch at least one or more lighting designs you’d only get one mark, no matter if you filled three pages of detailed explanation. 🙂

These days no doubt it would be a multiple choice on some moodle platform. Simply fill in the check box of choice. No diagrams needed.

Q. 2
You are making an Instagram emoji. What lighting consideration would you choose.

A. Google to find latest trending style
B. None, my iphone 2345 doesn’t need light
C. Check to be sure that the lighting is not being exploited by underpaying third world profiteers
4. Not a relevant question.

The one thing that always seems to be missing from the discussions is the mood.  What is the maker really trying to express.  What indeed is coming from the heart.

We had an early morning start the other day, and by sheer chance the weather presented us with some fine rolling mists.

It was good to be able to enjoy the light playing on the shapes and shadows.


Little Visits: Hard Work Pays Off

Now that we have the chance to get out and about, well at least for 25km, it might seem strange that I’d start off by posting some activity on the river where we’ve been doing our daily walk.

Two things have become apparent on our little journeys.
Firstly: How many Magpie Larks are at work on nests or have already flown young.
Secondly: The numbers of Willie Wagtails, all with nests quite close to one another, 50m or so is not unusual, and they have all begun about the same time, and most of them are now fledging, or soon will be, their first clutch. And surprisingly for Willies, none so far seem to have suffered predation by larger birds.  We have about 6 nests for sure, and several others that have yet to be discovered.

It was time to take a look at how things were going, and to our delight one pair had managed to get their three young on the wing, either that morning, or the day before, as the young were still ‘getting their wings’.

Another pair, with perhaps the best nest location, under an overhanging branch now overgrown with a creeper, also just got their two on the wing. They seemed content to hop from branch to branch among the creeper and the branches.


One of two that have been on the wing for about 5 days.
Time for a food top up.
An adult with their three young aeronauts.
Still with short tails and rich brown markings. The short tail doesn’t stop them from “Wagging”.
Time for a food topup
And down it goes.
tough shot. Two just fledged and still really only branch hopping.
Overlooking its important charges. This is one of the adults with the branching young.

Saturday Evening Post #105: The Fruits of an Early Spring

While we’ve been in lockdown the past few months, I’ve watched with interest the antics and the movements of a pair of Blackbirds that regularly hunt in our tiny backyard.

Their energies hit high level just a couple of weeks or so ago, and I eventually figured out by watching that they were engrossed in a bush in the next-door backyard. A nest no doubt.

Then last week the frequency of visits, the amount of a calling and the digging in the garden went into really high gear.
Now, I’m not a bird feeder, so for a couple of days I simply refrained, but a sliced apple core, or a small handful of sultanas, or mixed fruits, raisins seemed to be the favourite, saw them ducking over the fence line with full beaks.

I had to smile.



Looking out at the rain soaked ground, lo and behold, not one, but two big fat chicks sitting in the dry under the pergola.  With mum and dad making constant trips to top them up.

Why sultanas?  Well one of my Flickr friends in England David Brooker posted what must be the ulitmate friendship between human and blackbird.

Copyright David Brooker (2020),



Here’s Mum feeding one of the young ones a small piece of pear.

Photographic Essay: On the Road Again

Our first real day out after 4 months of Lockdown.

The title of the blog says more to my hairstyle than it does to the fact we were out and about.

At the moment, Willie Nelson and I have similar hairstyles. 🙂
So hum a few bars of “I’m on the Road Again, life I love is making photos with my friend, and I’ can’t wait to be on the Road Again.”

Where else would we have started than a trip to “The Office”.

As it turned out not a bad choice for a day out.  We loaded up IamGrey and with a sandwich and a cuppa it looked to be a good day.

Here is a quick selection from the day.

First up for the day. Purple-crowned Lorikeets. Each time I find these little birds I always come away feeling better about life and the world in general. They have such calming attitudes
This pair have a nesting site that is regularly used. I was really happy to find them out enjoying the sunshine
Another pair of Purple-crowned have a solid branch for their site. This one is blocking the hole so that marauding Rainbow Lorikeets will not bother its young.
There has always been a steady number of Little Lorikeets at the Office.
I was hoping they might be nesting, but this one did not seem to be interested.
It took me quite awhile to find it amongst the canopy. For all their bright colours they are muted in the shadows of the leaves and blend in so well.
White-browed Scrubwren busy with lunch
A recently fledged Fantail Cuckoo. Another score for EE.
It sat for quite a time, as we ate our sandwich and enjoyed the Earl’s good blend.
It no doubt has been hosted by some unfortunate thronbill or wren.
It took off to a bush, and I followed to see where it had gone.
Not the best photo I ever made, but does show the activity.
The young bird quite happily called in “Scrubwrenese” and within a few moments a White-browed Scrubwren arrived with food, followed immediately by a second one.
So perhaps the Scrubbies have been host to this rather large youngster.
After following a lot of calling noises we located a pair of Australian Hobby that have settled into nesting. The local Red Wattlebirds have taken exception to the visitors and kept up a running battle with both birds.
No doubt their numbers will diminish when the young Hobbys are hatched.
The never ending battle.
Wagtail on Raven


And so humming a few more bars of Willie Nelson’s tune, we headed back to IamGrey and home.


Saturday Evening Post #104: Everyone Right to Go?

Every day for the past 100+ days Victoria’s Premier, Daniel Andrews, has started the daily covid press conference asking, “Everyone right to go?”
So much so that a clip of a number of his beginnings have been put together and you can find  it here. I don’t do Twitter so hopefully this will link through ok

Yes, Mr Premier, we are indeed Right to Go. Please.

In Saturday Evening Post, #87: The fine art of procrastination, I rambled on a bit about the huge amount of uncurated photos I had languishing my photo library and my lack of motivation to do anything about it. Why wade through photos from 2011, when I’m certain to have shots that are better, technically improved, more meaningful than those older efforts.
So the photos continued to glug up the hard-drive(s).

Not being able to get out has  plagued (if you’ll pardon the poor pun), my photo enjoyment and the ability to share new work here, and on Flickr among other places.
So to amuse myself I started a little game of opening a year, and then clicking randomly on a month and then day and viewing the shots that showed up. Some were, to say the least worse than I had anticipated. Did I really photograph that!!!!! ?

But just occasionally a little gem would pop up, and my Flickr friends will have seen a few of them over the past couple of weeks.

Time as they say, marches on, and one morning I was messing about in 2011 folder, and I thought, “Why don’t I just delete these ordinary photos.”
So, I did.

It felt good.

I moved the next day, and soon had whittled it down from 75 also rans to 4 keepers.

I was on a roll.
By the end of the day, I had a mere 1,400 images from my efforts of 2011.  And some of them I would be happy to use.  Given that I had been out and shot for 235 of those 365 days, that works out at about 6 shots per trip. Many had less, 2 or 3 being much more average. Events like a nesting or special encounter might have up to 12 or more.

Hardly exciting stuff, but when I tackled 2010 the following day, I was both inspired and a man on fire. 2009, then 2008, then 2007 quickly followed during the week. And as the image count dropped, the gigabytes of images soon fell as well, and that gave me more enthusiasm for the project.

The challenge of course will be to keep the momentum going as I move toward the later years, and I might well—thanks to Dan—be back out in the field soon anyway.

Our Red-capped Robin is from the 2007 series. This was one of the first years that I was out in Woodlands. The camera was my trusty Nikon D90 and the lens was a Sigma 150-500m f/5.0-6.3 zoom.(it was filling in while my main lens was off at the camera hospital being repaired after a dreadful accident in 90kph+ winds).  The rig was mounted on a Manfrotto tripod, and a Markins Q10 ball-head held it all secure.

Which again shows how I’ve changed, as I rarely shoot from the tripod rig anymore. The nifty little Nikon 500mm f/5.6 PF is handheld all the time.

Another change for the better is the use of modern NEF, (raw) converters.

I’m off now to charge up the batteries, and tomorrow hopefully we’ll be able to take some baby steps out into the wider world and begin to feel once again at home in the field.

Yes, Dan. We are indeed Right to Go.

Saturday Evening Post #103: The End of the Day

The title is a part quote from John Muir, he of Yosemite and the High Sierras.
He said, “The end of an Endless Day”. He wandered free and with no encumbrances through the High Sierras and recorded his impressions from the delicacy of a leaf, the fog rolling through the redwoods all the way to the cathedrals of the ranges all around him.

Which reminded me once again the huge difference between looking and seeing.
Muir talks of visitors to the park who are there to catch trout, in the sparkling waters, so engrossed in attaching bits of worm to bent pieces of wire, and ending the life of a trout they didn’t see any of the surrounding areas that bring magic to the place.

For photographers, it’s not a portrait of a person, or a close up of an insect, nor the intricate detail of a flower, or the run of light, shadows and highlight, contrast and shape, form and texture.

It is to marvel at how all those elements come together at one instant in time, and produce a motif that glows from within and takes the viewer on a journey of discovery for themselves.

Great photographer and tutor Minor White, (1908-1976)  See some works here on MOMA created a workshop which was called “Pristine Vision” and participants were encouraged to photograph shapes and forms they didn’t recognise.
It resulted in images of wonderful excursions into light and shadow as the main subject.

A second part of the exercise was to study a large rock wall, high in the Shore Acres State Park in Oregon, and look for familiar shapes in the rocks.

A bit like being in awe of the ‘horsies and duckies’ in the clouds. A game I never tire of.

Great exercises in looking for what you recognise and well as exploring those you don’t.

Saturday Evening Post #102: Making things happen

Oh, ok, it’s not a bird picture.

No, I haven’t run out of images. Just happens that I’ve been sorting through the photo-library, and giving it a bit of Jenny Craig love and slimming it down by some 15 thousand also ran pics.

I came across this set, and thought it might be a change to share a little behind the image.

Because, there is more going on than at first would be noticed.

Backstory.  Mr An Onymous and I were invited to a Nikon Camera Launch night at a Go-Kart track to try out some of Nikon’s latest products, and as we both had pre-ordered we did have a teensy vested interest in getting our hands on the gear.

At the time I was shooting a lot with the little Nikon V1, a much maligned camera on this very blogsite, but I had mellowed a bit.

Along with being able to use the cameras/lenses and flash, participants also got to do a few laps, to get the adrenalin pumping.

The area was divided up into various stations, each of which concentrated on one aspect or equipment style.

I chose to use the little VI and took the opportunity to get a hand on some of the small system lenses as well as a few of the normal F mount lenses.

I was working with some of the zoom lenses and shooting at the exit of a particularly tight corner on the circuit.  Slow shutter speeds and large apertures were the go.  From the island in the center of the corner the boys and girls where trying out the latest and greatest flash units.

It dawned on me that if I shot of a burst, then perhaps the flash from the other photographers would on occasion sync with me and I’d get a great look of the light coming from a side angle.
It did.
Given there were about 10 people using flash at the time, I was able to get many bursts with at least one flash shot.
Add a slow shutter speed to give the feel of speed, and the rest was easy.

I like this one, as the limited spread of the flash has meant the front driver was not highlighted by the flash.

Who said photographing birds was tough.

Tech Specs.

Nikon V1, 70-200mm f/4, ISO 3200 1/30 @f/4


It must have been a successful night as Mr An, still tells the story that the following day, I went out and bought a zoom lens for the little V1 🙂

Laying on the Speed

Little Journeys: Around the Block

Was chatting with my local Barista, Steve, this morning, and he said, “I am over 2020, and am not going to bother to apply for involvement in 2021.”

Easy to identify with the frustration. Their business is hanging on by ‘take-away’ coffee and food.  He said that they enjoyed table service and the clientele and the community that comes from that and for now he is just plodding on day by day.

EE and I have been taking a morning ‘exercise’ before breakfast around the block. Well, actually a couple of blocks.
What we have discovered in our perambulations, is a number of Masked Lapwings that have taken to nesting in small park areas that have been relatively quiet since the lockdown.

I’ve featured the “Quads” before, and they are all now quite experienced flyers.  And are beginning to look quite dapper in their changing wardrobe.

A couple of streets further on, and a small linking pathway between two housing estates had enough grass to allow another pair a home for their young.
These little dudes are now about two weeks hatched and the adults are moderately tolerant of passing traffic. The young are just starting to lose the baby feathers as the richer dappled juvenile plumage comes through.

And as we swing for home, a children’s playground has become a nursery.
The council mowed the lawns yesterday, and were kind enough to mow around Mum sitting on her precious little nest.
Somebody, (perhaps the council worker ) also has erected a sign to help. Hopefully she will be ok, but has at least two more weeks to hatch.

Finally the little water retarding basin near the local supermarket, on the way for a milkrun had two new visitors this morning. A couple of Hoary-headed Grebe graced the water.
Not sure if they are moving in, as the ponds also support at least one Australian Grebe.

And no photos, but we have found seven Magpie-lark nests.  Mostly buried in trees along the main road so a bit hard to photograph without attracting attention.

Little Journeys indeed.