Saturday Evening Post #189: All I Need.

I have as many will be aware working a lot with Black and White, or Monochromatic images recently.
In somewhat a return to beginnings.
My very first attempts at photography were with a 127 size film camera and making contact prints from each negative individually, at first, in the family laundry under the glow of weak orange light. It’s hard to know if my somewhat blurry images of Blackie, the Cat could be seen as anything more than a waste of pocket money. 🙂

But I persisted, and as I did I learned something of the craft of photography by osmosis from books at my local library.

Here I learned of the work of a Sydney based photographer, Max Dupain. Most will have seen a version of his “Sunbaker” image. But Max was a much more influential artist.
There are plenty of sites that delve into his life, history and art, so I won’t belabour that.
He stood, against, in the 1930s the ‘pictorialists’. The blurry, hazy interpretations of people, landscape, architecture and more. He set a course of drama, clarity and importance of tone, shape and design..

You can flick through a range of his images on the web and conclude, “Oh, I’ve seen that before, or made shots just like that of the same subject.”
But Max did it first.

Some sites worth checking out to see his work.

7 Works

Light and Shadow

Sydney Opera House Construction

I remember acquiring for my Father a copy of a Max Dupain series calendar around 1989. My Father’s own work was in someways contemporaneous with Max. We did spend a few hours occasionally discussing the photos on that calendar.

Max did not travel the world, preferring his own home locations, but I remember a print with rich black tones of “Lunchtime in Hobart” and a similar one of “Collins Street, Melbourne“.
Another fine series is the “Shark Tower at Manly
and from that tower several images of the surf running on Manly Beach. and “Lifesavers

Max once wrote that if his work was to have any significance,:

” It has to be devoted to that place where I have been born, reared and worked, thought, philosophised and made pictures to the best of my ability. And. That is all I need. “

So it has been from that background that I’ve been been working in Mono of late. Not taking a preexisting image and using the amazing effects of Nik Silver EFx Pro, but rather looking for shape, tone, texture and design but rather seeking out images that have the qualities of a great Mono shot. I have been using the Monochrome setting in-camera, (and yes, they are JPEG), and once again experimenting with the use of inbuilt colour filtration to increase, or decrease a range of tones.

When I saw Bronson sitting in an open area against a clear blue sky, I was already seeing the final result. I have published a version of this shot on Flickr. I had opened up the shadows and brightened up the sky, but my first choice was as it came from camera.


From the Fieldnotes Book: Out and About

We were travelling in the early. bright sunshine, on a very still, cold day. Our destination was a couple of paddocks to check for Flame Robins, and also a little further on to monitor the nesting progress of a pair of Black-shouldered Kites.

The narrow road is typical of farming communities with deep drains on either side and very little road shoulder, and while there was room to pass, there was no real room to park. We have been making this journey about once a week, and every so often perhaps twice a week to check on the progress of the Kites.

As we drove along the road, into the sunshine, a tree close to the fenceline, in the distance, looked to have three large bird sized shapes, and as it was a long way ahead we ran through the usual suspects, Ravens, Doves, Magpies, etc.

Then just as we approached, EE exclaimed, “They are juvenile Black-shouldered Kite.” With no where to stop other than the middle of the road, it was a bit precarious, so I moved up to a gateline and we walked back. Sure enough, three very handsome looking young kites. Where had they come from? Where they waiting to be fed? Wonder where the nest had been located? Now there are not too many trees suitable in the area, so it would be hard to pick one, and as we’d travelled that way a few times, and not seen any action in the area, it was even more a mystery.

After a lot of preening and wing stretching the answer to the question, “Are they waiting to be fed?” was answered as first one, then another lifted off with easy, flew out over the paddock and began to hover and drive down. These young kites had been on the wing for three or more weeks its seems.

We didn’t see a successful strike, but that was more to inexperience than anything and no doubt they were quietly confident of getting their own breakfast. After about an hour or so we moved on. The parents hadn’t been sighted and the young weren’t crying to be fed, so the best conclusion perhaps was they were now on their way out into the world on their own and were still travelling together for company.


It will be interesting to see if they are still in the area next time we visit.

Saturday Evening Post# 188: Elusive

There is so much about photography that is elusive. Sometimes like Eastern Spinebills, it is the subject. Our friend Rodger has been photographing them at Royal Park with varying degrees of success and as we were in the area we decided to go have a looksee.

After several hours it was sad to conclude that they would remain elusive. 🙂
We did manage a brief glimpse of one that came by, settled on a branch, and frustratingly was surrounded by small twigs and branchlets.


We did see one.

I’ve only just received back from repair my 300mm f/4 PF lens. It is a great little lens to be walking about with and, as here, I use it almost exclusively with the teleconverter TC 1.4 which gives me a fine 420mm focal length.

This one I’ve owned since the get go. I received one of the first of the lenses in Australia. The dealer could only get an allocation of one lens. It’s been one of my go-to lenses for birds ever since. It does have a software issue with the D810 and vibration reduction settings, but as I’ve retired that camera it is no longer a concern. EE uses one and it never comes off her D500. That lens I’ve always thought has a little more highkey contrast than mine. Not much, but just noticeable if we shoot side by side.

Earlier this year mine started to look a little soft and rendering fine detail and feather markings became a problem. It came to head when I was working with a Little Egret that had some fine breeding plumage feathers and they all looked doubled-edged and soft. Strange. So began the usual: check focus accuracy, suspect the camera, increase contrast in the camera and turn off first one setting then another.

But to now avail. Then one morning when I was going to try again, I picked the lens up and it had a distinct rattle. ???
Seems that one or more of the glass elements had worked loose. The local authorised repair centre was about to close its doors and it seemed that I’d have to send the lens to Nikon Techs in Sydney. I managed to find a repair centre in Adelaide. DigiCam seemed to have some very good reviews, and I filled out a form on line, and the following day received details of how to ship the lens. It went the following day with their arranged courier.

DigiCam came back quickly with an initial report and it seems that several retaining rings had worked loose and needed replacement.
Yes Please!

They kept me updated regularly on the progress, the need to order parts, and the likely turn around time. Great to have a good story to tell.

And about three weeks later the lens was returned looking very fine. They had even replaced a damaged element (which I have to say I put my hand up as culprit), so what I had was pretty much new out-of-the-box. Given all this happened over the Easter break, it was a super quick turnaround.

Tentative first test on the tv antenna across the road showed it looked as good as ever.
Now that it has had several trips to the bush, and made some special images I must say that DigiCam have won me as a customer and I’m delighted to tell the story of exceptional service.

Now all I need is to find some more Spinebills to work with.

(From the Election Free Zone)

Little Visits: Pinkerton and Eynesbury

Doing bird counts as part of citizen science has been a feature of the Werribee Wagtails group for many years.
No longer formally affiliated the members still, however, get together for a monthly outing and also for bird counts every quarter at two locations.

Pinkerton and Mulla Mulla Grasslands (aka Bush’s Paddock) and Eynesbury Grey Box forest were the sites for our recent count.

It is interesting to go back over an area over the seasons and see the changes in habitat as well as the variety of bird life.
The early winter walk is always interesting at Mulla Mulla Grasslands as the Flame Robins return there each year. Sometimes the numbers are quite small, this season they are certainly looking very healthy and in good numbers.
They feed in the open paddocks of the farmland adjacent to the forest area and use the forest fenceline as a secure base to rest.

In the afternoon, we also count at Eynesbury Grey Box. This trip we found 2 pairs of Jacky Winter. Jacky is quite the citizen of Grey Box, both male and female are midtone greys and subtle brown variations. They can also be quite accomodating, and while everyone else moved along the track I sat for a few minutes with one that was feeding and in the end it came in quite close. I might have stayed all afternoon, but duty pressed us on.

And just as well as we also spotted the jewel in the crown of Eynesbury Grey Box. The Diamond Firetail.
The Diamond Firetail is also the signature bird for the area, so always good to locate them.

Time for some shots from the day. The gallery is best viewed by double clicking on an image to go to the larger size.


Saturday Evening Post #187: In Heartbeats

There is, a thought where, to paraphrase Kahil Gibran, “You and the Subject are One: The Difference is in Heartbeats.”

There can be no doubt that photographing birds can be a somewhat hit and miss affair.
Not every bird is ready for its space to be invaded by a stumbling human with a long lens attached to a camera, no matter what the good intentions.
Some birds never allow close approaches. Yet on rare occasions for their own reasons will swing in close and the heartbeats somehow synchronise for a few brief moments.

A couple of Hobbys (Not sure if they are a pair or perhaps siblings from a recent nesting) were working over the treelines. It was easy to follow their progress as the agitated calls of White-plumed and New Holland Honeyeaters announced their travel through the treelines.

One of the pair stopped long enough perhaps to appraise the situation and take stock of the next opportunity. This bird swung in over the top and the first bird abandoned the perch.

This moment shows the second bird balancing its landing and slowly folding up the wings in preparation for also taking its own survey.
Did it know I was there? Of course. But for just a few moments our heartbeats aligned.
A quick look around, and satisfied there was little to eat in the area, it was off across the paddock at full tilt. Gone was the heartbeat moment.

From the Fieldnotes Book: Flame Robins

It has been a little over a month since the first of the Flame Robins began appearing at Point Cook.
As usual they come down in a largish travelling party and then slowly disperse into smaller family groups about the park

Often the older females will stay together and the males will move to other parts of the park.
We have been working with one smaller group that has 5-6 females, 2 males and several juveniles. The one that appears to be the Matriarch is still trying to persuade the males to move on a bit further down the field.

Now that they have settled in, it makes finding them, and photography a little easier. The Parks people have inadvertently helped by cutting a 10m or so firebreak around the fence lines so the birds are able to successfully hunt in the shorter grasses.

Sadly for photography there is not a lot of suitable perches and the fencelines offer them the best views of the area, if not the best poses for photography. But its been good to catchup with them and we now have more photos of the Robins from this season than for the entire previous two seasons that were constantly cut short by limiting lockdowns

So in no particular order here are some from the last couple of visits.


Saturday Evening Post #186 : Seeing is Believing

I had some comments last post about the “Valley of the Shadow of Death”, by Fenton.
The whole truth in media becomes quite apparent when the historian looks at the two images and has to decide which is the accurate and which is the staged version.

Perhaps Rodger Fenton was the first of a long line of photo-journalists that have sought to tell the power of the story with the help of the image being a representation of the event rather than a simple photo reproduction from the moment.

Frank Hurley, the Australian photographer who accompanied E.Shackleton on the ill-fated “Endurance” expedition to the Antarctic also ‘dabbled’ with the moment. It is still hard to explain how he achieved the seemingly night time shot of the Endurance in the Ice. His diary indicates the use of many flashes and the difficulty of making the exposure.

Later Hurley would become a war photographer and many of his images, again, drive historians crazy. He made no bones about making double images, multiple printing techniques and montages. His famous shot of the rescue boat departing for help, is most likely the rescue party returning.

The images of soldiers on the way to the front is thought to be a reversed negative print.

And the one that really gets discussion going is the amazing moment of trench warfare with aircraft, shells exploding and troops advancing seemingly under fire.

Hurley openly stated it to be a multiple printed montage.
In the end he found,
Oct. 1, 1917. Our Authorities here will not permit me to pose any pictures or indulge in any original means to secure them. They will not allow composite printing of any description, even though such be accurately titled nor will they permit clouds to be inserted in a picture.

As this absolutely takes all possibilities of producing pictures from me, I have decided to tender my resignation at once. I conscientiously consider it but right to illustrate to the public the things our fellows do and how war is conducted. These can only be got by printing a result from a number of negatives or reenactment
A good selection of images is here.

Fast forward to Steve McCurry, he of the Afghan girl portrait on the cover of National Geographic. Steve’s later work was found to have ‘Photoshopped” in or out details of some stories and the furore of the net knew no bounds. So much so that he changed his style of photography to account for such story telling rather than image straight from camera. See one of many articles here

Many years back a well known soup manufacturer got into a boil over about marketing shots of its ‘famous’ Farmstyle Vegetable Soup that was ‘packed’ with vegetables. The photograph did in fact show a lovely warm inviting bowl of soup with the veggies all piled high out of the liquid.

However when it was prepared straight from the can, as per the instructions, the hapless cook was greeted with a bowl of liquid with a scant number of veggies sinking to the bottom of the bowl. The clever photographer had filled the studio bowl with glass marbles, and then scooped the veggies over the top and then slowly added just enough liquid to hide the marbles.

And let’s not forget any of the fast-food chains. The chances of getting a burger that resembles the bright crisp item in the photo display is minimal. Again the net is awash with dissatisfied consumers.

So it must be asked if I make some changes to an image, how much is legitimate. Now I’m not talking about Photoshopping Uncle Fred’s face into a daffodil, I’m hoping we are over that.

I’ve been working on some shots the past few weeks making Black and White portraits from a range of photos. I do it because I like the end result. If I share one, it is noticeable as after-all the creature has colour.

I’m not asking the viewer to suspend their credibility or influencing the understanding of the subject. Rather inviting them to explore the nuances of tone, shape, texture and from in a new way.

Perhaps the old adage from the Furphy Watertanker:

Good, better, best
Never let it rest,
Until your good is better,
And your better is best.

Is still a good working motto.