Saturday Evening Post#172 : Story Tailoring

Another week that the weather has controlled.

EE said the other day, “This is the first time in the 8 years since we’ve moved that I can recall being so hot. Almost to the point of not being able to breath.”
Needless to say we’ve not be out doing much fieldwork, and when we did venture out one morning, we found the birds were pretty much on to the same thing.  Stay quietly out of the heat.

But then in the same breath, EE tells me she saw 4 Latham’s Snipe on the local David Creek on her early morning walk.
Then.  It rained.
So the old Doona Hermit has been cuddled up following the occasional blog and equipment report.

One writer I follow, Dan Milnor, recently wrote about “Documentary Photography”.   Not a new concept, I agree. He roughly defines it as, ” Basic, Accurate representation of people, places, object and events.”  Adding “Of significant or relevant history.”
That is the challenge for photo-journalists.  Do you tell an unbiased story, or… does even recording it from your viewpoint carry a bias.
Dorothea Lange’s Dustbowl images are more than just a ‘record’.  W. Eugene Smith’ s Minamata campaign was much more than a record of some dodgy Aluminium smelter.
The harrowing pic of the young girl running from napalm by Nick Ut, can hardly be thought of a just a record.  Perhaps it is the defining image of the change of attitude to the Vietnam War.

Australian Press Photography Walkley Awards have shown some work that is far more than just a record, and Matthew Abbot the 2020 winner is a great example.  More than just the event

Don points out some of the skills needed for Documentary Photography. Essential traits like, Patience, Focus, Curiosity, Perseverance, Empathy and Determination.

And Story-telling.

A fundamental question he says needs asking, “What do you love?”  Photograph it.
It’s not just a habit, or an occasional adventure.  It is an obsession! I read somewhere a long time ago about a preacher who said something like, “Woe is me if I don’t preach.”

We work with small numbers of birds.  Most never allow us to become ‘friends’.  However from time to time we might find a bird, or a pair that are ready to tolerate our presence, and at some stage the thin strand becomes a rope. (Jon Young) and we are able to enter their world at a little more intimate level.  Then the season changes. And they are gone.

When we are given such a privilege, we work hard to make the best work we possibly can. There may not be a next time.

This pair of Willie Wagtails have now successfully completed their clutch.  We found the nest on a branch overlooking a well-used walking track.  Willie, instead of being ‘furtive’ about the nest built it out in the open.  No protection.  Perhaps the bird logic is that being in the open, it would be overlooked by predators.
She had also chosen a spot with some great foundations.  The branch had four seperate branchlets coming from it, and she had built in the middle.  A solid and secure base.  One of the better wagtail nests we find.

The young were a close to flying, but Mum was ready to ‘sit’ and protect them as we walked past.   One of the young wanted to know what was going on, and poked its head up from under Mum’s protective feathers.

They flew the next day.

6 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post#172 : Story Tailoring

  1. A wonderful image of the Willie nest, David! Lovely to see the curiosity of the young one. It is wonderful when we are allowed into their world, even if just a little bit.
    It is very difficult when documenting not to leave ‘our mark’ on the images! We all see the world in our own way and it tends to become apparent in our images!
    As to the weather this last week, it really hasn’t been conducive to wandering about with camera in hand, perhaps the coming week will be an improvement. After I mow the lawns – they are growing like it is Springtime!

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  2. G’day David,
    I guess I’ve written before about the difficulty of “The camera never lies”. We each bring our own vision, and involvement with the subject to any image we make from kids in the backyard bbq to the destruction in warzones.
    As David DuChemin is oft to say, “That is how I saw it!”
    Documentary has the problem of self-imposed rules, and also the ‘rules’ of everyone who views. And as I might expound on soon, the need to express ‘outrage’ no matter.

    Uni Grebe survived the rain, although the nest is now floating high above most of the reeds she thought would be protection. Sneydes Road Kites are still unhatched as best we can determine.

    The oppressive humidity is taking toll not only on body but on sharpness with heathaze.

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  3. A lovely photo David, and interesting how many birds that are usually very nest protective, build out overhanging busy walking tracks. The Willy nest has a very clever structure, and I always marvel how they do it so well with just a small beak. Yes it is a great privilege when wild birds invite you into their trust and tolerate your presence. We are enjoying this with our backyard birds as well as particular Maggies we meet constantly on our walks. It is also interesting how they can have days of total trust and those of feeling unsafe, as they may experience attitude and mood changes depending on their recent circumstance, as we humans can. That’s an amazing sighting by EE of those Snipes, we would be happy to see one here. The weather there is apparently very wet from news reports, hope you stay dry enough, and you have been able to do some birding with your grandson, it is one of the most humid years here.

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  4. Hello Ashley,
    The local Willies are about 50-50 on this. Some build in the most outrageous open spots and sometimes get away with it, while others are so furtive we can only generalise about where the nest is located.
    That they are able to do all this engineering with just a small beak is fascinating. Some make structures that are quite strong and even reuse them, while others just about fall apart as soon as the first wind blows or get squashed as the young reach fly time.

    It is hard to know what the level of trust is and it’s as you point out variable. We have a pair of Blackbirds that nest next door. I am prone to feeding them a few sultanas, when feeding young she will fly right past me to get to the goodies and would I think take them from me if I persisted. Now, nesting is over, she pokes her head around the building and if I’m standing there dropping said sultanas, she scampers away to come back later.

    We are still overwhelmed by the weather, and no doubt the birds are too. Early mornings are good for walking, but the light is not so good for photography. We can but wait

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  5. That’s a delightful image David, with the youngster popping its head out of the feathers. The weather has been difficult for everyone I think – birds, animals and photographers. Let’s hope it stays more like today very soon!

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    1. Hello Eleanor, we did a trip back to Point Cook in the morning the other day. Terribly hot and the Sparrowhawks were still in the trees over the picnic table, but apart from the Galahs the all the other birds were resting up out of the heat it seemed.

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