Saturday Evening Post: Where Ever You Are: Be There!

Sure, the shops are all closed by government decree around here, so I’m really talking from past experiences.

Have you been in a shop, ready to part with the hard earned, find what you want, approach the ‘sales’ staff, and find the they are busily enthralled in their own world on their ‘phone’. Some Tik-tok, spacebook, istafalm or other thing that holds attention.  Not wanting to make eye-contact under any circumstances, they’ll try to get the whole customer interruption, (used to called making  profit), out of the way.

Or perhaps, there is a ongoing discussion among several about lunch possibilities, or last night’s gym session.
Walk into a store, and my local greengrocer is such, and it’s a hive of activity, each customer is welcomed, a small banter of conversation, admittedly just above, “Oh have a nice day”, but at least an interest in the person.
Refreshing.

I had a friend once who was forever telling people, “Where ever you are: Be There!”
The same concepts come across in many religions. I’m not into deep meditation, or discovering my inner-self, or even spirit-filled ether of nebulous thought.

Nearly 18 months back, we were so I remember being told, “All in this together”.
Now its down to arguing why vaccine support can’t be redirected to Sydney to help. (And, please, I do understand there is much packed into that simple sentence, and  pumping more arms tomorrow is not going to bring the numbers down the day after.)

If any, us Melbournians might want to have a little compassion given we were putting out numbers like 600 or more infections A DAY, this time last year.

Wherever you are be: Be There!

What my friend was advocating, these days,  carries a well-worn, and oft, misunderstood and misused term.
Mindfulness.
It crops up in all the ‘best’ websites, lectures, books and corner spruikers.

Lao Tzu defined it so much more simply.  “Focus”  Ahh good photographic term, something I can get my head around.

Poking my head up against the viewfinder, and carefully working the composition, at some point, I have determined which part of the image is to be:
1. The focus, and
2 the Point of Sharp focus.
Wherever you are: Be there.

Henri Cartier-Bresson said, “To take photographs is to hold one’s breath…. It is putting one’s head, eye and one’s heart on the same axis….
There is a creative fraction of a second when you are making the picture. That is the moment the photographer is creative
     Opp!  The Moment.
Once it is gone, it is gone—Forever.”

As bird watchers, counters, seekers or photographers we are acutely  aware of the around.  The calls of the birds across the paddock, the Magpie in pursuit of a raptor, the shrill call of a White-plumed Honeyeater’s warning, a pair of Magpie Lark bonding.

I’m taking to doing much more sitting and watching, listening and soaking up the winds, sounds smells and changes of season than previously.
What is around the next turn in the track is not as alluring as years gone by. I’m happy to be a little kid on the beach, looking intently at a grain or two of sand as being overwhelmed by the broad vista before me.

Where ever you are Be There.

Besties to all those locked down, all those who are struggling with the isolation and hats off to all those dedicated Heros who are working so hard for us.  You show us the way

From the Global Headquarters of the Doona Hermit.

You don’t get more focused than a hungry juvenile Australian Hobby lining up for lunch to arrive. 🙂

 

Saturday Evening Post: #144 :Brown Falcon Dreaming

Hello all my felllow-lockdownees, and others.
The Doona Hermit has crawled out from under the covers here at the Global Headquarters of the Doona Hermit.

Not much to see in our street, so I’ll move on to other things.

Best wishes to all the Sydney-siders.  So many of them stood with us in solidarity last year as our lockdowns dragged on and on. We know your pain, we know how hard it is with just about everybody doing the right thing and then… what are those people doin!!!
Concentrate on the good ones.  Those who are working on the front-line, in the backrooms, calling, delivering, offering comfort, and all the other other genuine human things we are so capable of in crisis.
Goodonya

Meanwhile Victoria is again in the firing line with a nominal, “Five Day Circuit Breaker”, but I doubt if there is a single Victorian who even dares to image that come next Tuesday evening we’ll be relieved.  The smart money seems to be on an extension of some duration.

The ‘We allwannagotothefooty” mantra has meant that those few selfish (and this blog doesn’t usually call it a it is!) had their couple of hours of ‘pleasure’ and now we all suffer.
Years ago in the Sun New Pictorial newspaper, columnist  Keith Dunstan (OAM) established the Anti-Football League (AFL)
I’d be happy to be a subscribing member at the moment 🙂

Draw a line


I watched part of the David Attenborough series “LIFE IN COLOR“, can’t find much of a link anywhere, but will keep trying.  The part that is of interest here to your scribe was the segment on the Fiddler crab and its ability to use polarised light to find a mate, and to avoid predators.

As a photographer I’ve been interested in the use of polarised light and its characteristics for a long time.  Numerous polarising filters, filter sheet, and polarising materials laying around the work area will attest to the ongoing investigations.
Even helped me on several jobs, particularly when we were working for car mags, and also the excursion into interiors for home-improvement clients.

I wish I could find some details of how the production team worked with all this, how they determined it worked and how they then built the special gear to bring it to screen.  A few voice-over sentences hardly does it justice.

The interesting one for me was that if said crab turned its attentions and its special skills to the skies, what it would ‘see’ was a blank, white canvas. Any movement, say a predator gull, or large hungry seabird, would be picked up as a black shape against the white, no distractions, and as quick as you can say, disappear, it was down in its hole, safe and secure.

No doubt, and I hypothesize, (you get to do that a lot hidden under the doona), that the creature also had some shape recognition, much like the plane and boat recognition shapes that were used by spotters during WWII.
Which of course led to the next hypothesis.

If it works for your clever and well equipped Fiddler crab, might it not have some similar application in other creatures.

Long-term readers will know I have a theory. No, I didn’t borrow this one from Mr An Onymous, this is pure Doona Hermit land.

I’ve sat and watch Brown Falcon’s for many an hour.  Not your ‘Oh, there’s a Brown Falcon on the fence’ move on” sort of stuff, but sitting a respectful distance from Brown and watching it watch.

I’m convinced they have the area ‘mapped’. Somehow. Each scan of the scene reinforces the last scan, or reveals something new to be added to the ‘map’.  Such as.
That skink just came out from under the leaves.  There is a snake working through the bracken.  The crickets are gathering near the little water soak. Each can then be evaluated as to the risk-management of pursing the prey.  Once they know where the opportunities exist, they don’t have to immediately take off and chase, they can plan and take action at a time that suits them.

Flying there is usually, low and fast through the grasses and bushes not even being able to see where the quarry is, but knowing if they stick to the map, weave here, turn there, zig left, they will arrive, like a shopper in a supermarket, at the right aisle, for the prize.

Now if I combine that with the polarised light Attenborough segment, I am wondering if Brown’s have some similar ability.  Looking out they see a blank canvas, and anything that moves across that landscape is ‘red-hot’ in contrast, and easily mapped and evaluated.
Such is the theory.

In the meantime this Brown was sitting high on his territory.  It is a fav perch, right alongside a major, busy road, with wide open paddocks all around.
On this particular frosty morning, he’d taken the opportunity to warm up in the struggling sunlight and was in no hurry to move on.
The scanning process was obvious.

Saturday Evening Post #141 : Comfort Zone

“How did you get into your present comfort zone?” he asked.

Do you know, I hadn’t really thought about it. I suppose I just slipped into it.

I’ve been working with a new mentor the past week or so, felt like taking on a bit of a challenge, and it hasn’t all been tough. Some has been fun, as well as highly revealing and instructive.
He’s given me plenty to think about.  Mostly around not just taking new pictures but how I go about making them sing and dance.

Now it’s true, I’ve been post processing photographs since the days of “Barneyscan”. (you gotta look that up) precursor to Photoshop.

Used to manage our library on something called “Shoebox”, an Eastman Kodak company early attempt at databasing photos. It used a cd jukebox to store photos, and had a clever algorithm to find the tagged ones. Great for demos,  type in Bird, or Macaw and up would pop a wonderful rich colour photo of a Macaw. Stunning.
You could also poll it for say, Maureen’s Wedding, or Grey Mustang at Summer Nats, or whatever you’d stored and logged, and up would pop a few seconds later….. a photo of a Macaw…   It wasn’t even beta software, more your pre-alpha 🙂
Time moved on, and so did we.  I used to use Nikon’s Capture NX2 for a long time.  Reason, it was using the clever NIk Technology “U-Point” system and made post processing a breeze, one you got used to its quirkiness. But in the end, I’ve always said, give Photoshop, Layers, Layer Masks and a Paintbrush and that would do me for pp.

So he asked, “How did you get into your present comfort zone?”  And we concluded, quite easily, it just felt comfortable.
Which is why  the next challenge was to find an image I didn’t have much investment in, and play around with it, in something like Lightroom or Capture One.
And I found there was a lot of the Develop module, that I understood, but didn’t appreciate in terms of setting the mood or emotion or feel, or even my vision of the image.

Particularly in Black and White.   I rely on Nik ‘Silver Efex Pro” for my mono conversions. Because there are lots of film effects and the old mono filters that I grew up with.  (Another question I’ve added to my memory list from last week: What is the filter factor for a Wratten Green #58?) SFX has them all listed each on it’s own slider, and makes changing sky or tree, or sand to the right tonal level for the feel I’m after, a snap.

This time through I was able to use the local Hue-Saturation-Luminosity filters to achieve the same thing.
Hey, I knew that. But, my comfort zone didn’t 🙂

My Flickr folk were the first to see the difference.  I posted a mono pic of a Collared Sparrowhawk on a fence.  As a colour shot it was pretty much unattractive. brown bird against sky, ugly fence.
“Try some tone changes,” was the suggestion.

Suddenly it was working, lighter sky, rich tones on the bird feathers and those glowing legs and eyes.  Simples. (Hah! I knew that)

Still got a way to go, as I’m tackling a series of challenges around the ‘Visual Roadmap’, not a term I leaned at Art School. More I suspect will follow.

Tonight, as Lee Lin Chin says in the ad, we could play for Ray Martin’s Gold Logi, but instead I’ve settled on a shot from the other day with Mr An Onymous.
It’s a few seconds work in Lightroom’s Black and White mode.  A trip through the HSL sliders and a few points of grain.

I wanted to keep the feather detail, but at the same time bring the emphasis on the seeming enjoyment that bird was having with its treat.

Ahh, back to the comfort of a real darkroom 🙂

 

 

Saturday Evening Post #140 : Stereotype

Stereotype has among its first usages several hundred years back as: image perpetuated without change.
More recently its use is in the realms of psychology deal with, so I’m told, the thoughts of an individual being applied (rightly or wrongly) to a group of people.
Rough boyscout definition only.

Our blog friend Eleanor raised such an issue for the other day as her new camera is cranking out huge CR3 files and its meant she has taken to using JPEG format.  I made the comment that I often shoot JPEG format. And with good reasons.   Bought the usual responses, of ‘can’t be a true committed photographer if you’re not using raw (usually put as RAW-but its not an acronym). My photos are doomed to the dustbin of the furthermost photo hell, and me along with it’.
Truth be told I like working in JPEG as it frees me from sitting staring at the screen cranking first this, then that slider. Strange old stereotype that judges the quality of work by the file type.   I know pretension exists, still.

However changing thoughts, I had to go, on my doctors instructions to one of those, you know, what do ya call ’em,  ohhh.   Oh yeah, cognitive memory tests. Where you get asked if you can remember important stuff. Such as, What year is it? Who is Prime Minister of Australia? Count backwards from 100 minus 7 at a time… hmm, 93…..Oh, I give up.

All sorts of things I’m not all that interested in. I’m more interested not so much which day of the week it is, but will it be sunny, no wind, a low tide, what season, and will all that be good for photographs.

Among one of the questions was something about ‘Do I like to cook’.  So I gave an answer. But.  It didn’t match the stereotype required answer, and I came to the conclusion the inquisitor wasn’t interested in my answer, only that I’d fit the pattern of old male, unable to boil water.  I took time to explain I learned to cook from my Mum early in life, spent a summer holiday working with a hotel chef, and had been househusband for #kneetoo for some 18 years since her back injury.   I think I grasped the basic principle behind boiling water, and could, given a few moments notice, master the skill of opening a tin of baked beans.
However all to no avail, as it wasn’t in the stereotype answers required.

Why, I thought on the way home, don’t they ask me some questions I’m actually interested in.

How much sodium sulpite is there in a litre of Kodak D76 developer.
What is the processing time of Tri-X in D76 diluted 1:1 at 20C.
What is the calculations for DOF.
What are the three factors affecting Depth of Field.
Can you recall what is the significance of the Circle of Confusion.
etc
For the digital age:
Describe the Bayer Pattern
For bonus points what is the first name of Dr Bayer
For double bonus points, Have you met Bryce personally
Explain Discrete Cosine Transfer (DCT) as the basis for JPEG compression.

Ohh sneaky how I managed to get that in.

Not content I had to also see a podiatrist, just to check that my feet where still down there somewhere.
It was all going swimmingly until the question about ‘would I walk very far during the day?’
Stereotype kicks in. Old bloke, couch potato, might be able to walk to the mail box
My answer, most mornings I walk for an hour or before breakfast and on a day in the field I might make 10-12Km,  was not the right answer.
So we had to spend the next few minutes going over the details, you know just in case I was doing my Walter Mitty impersonation. When I mentioned that, I received a blank stare!!!!
How easy it is to consign people it seems.

A good, dear friend, told me once that she attended such a ‘memory’ day, and was asked, “Shirley, What day is it?”
Her answer, with a straight poker face. (She was quite the intellectual, an educator and author), ” Oh, that’s easy, it’s the day you told me to come for my appointment!”. Dumb silence.  And a little check-mark in the ‘failed’ box.

Gotta finish on a high.
Do you follow  “First Dog on the Moon” cartoons on the online The Guardian, news. ?
If not then do take a look at this one.  Why Vaccines should be like Hot Chips  The birdo answer is in the last panel.

Tonight’s Image is bought to you by JEPG.
This is Jack the Eastern Yellow Robin, we worked two seasons with the pair.
Shot with a D2x camera on the Mode1 JPEG setting
The reason I like that mode is the beautiful clean greys that it produces. I still use a variation of it in the D500.

Saturday Evening Post #139: The Bohemians

We’ve been locked down to a 10 and then 25 Kilometre radius for the past few weeks.  Add to that the weather that seems to have translated itself from somewhere south of Antarctica, and #kneetoo still in recovery mode, there has not been a lot of enthusiasm to venture out to check the mailbox, let along go to the field for birds.

Thanks to a recommendation from Mike over at TOPS, I decided to buy a Kindle copy of a book by Jasmin Darznik titled The Bohemians

Warning: It is a novel. An historical novel; but a novel none the less.
It takes its setting in the late 1910s and early 1920s.  Its major setting is San Fransisco.

The heroine, is none other than Dorothea Lange. A photographer I have discussed on this blog before as her stunning photos and photo-journalism had an impact on my visual growth as a very young photographer. As a wet-behind-the-ears youngster, my local librarian had noted my interest in photography—perhaps astutely as  I’d borrowed the same basic photography books umpteen times and knew them from cover to cover, and admitted me to the ‘Adult’ section. Which, had for reasons I’ve never pondered, a really fine selection of photo-folio books. Several Dorothea Lange works were there and again I could pore of them learning a little of the artistic ability of this amazing lady.

Bohemians

This is not really a book review, nor am I crusading to have you rush out and buy or download the book.
The character, “Dorrie”, tells her story in the first person, and it’s a relatively good yarn, rollicking along, as Ms. Lange meets all the historical characters that played a part in forming the real Dorothea’s life.
It is also an interesting journey into the early 1920s and of course the struggles of the time. Quite a number of photographers make appearances, along with artists and writers.

Fair kept me busy during the rather cold weather of late. Hot cup of Cacao, my new fav warm drink, in my new “Hug Mug” and there was an afternoon or two speeding by.

I’m not sure about the author’s intention, but not doubt some of the social inequities of our current time have found their way into the story, which makes for some interesting comparisons.

There are a number of historical glitches, not big ones, Ansel Adams did suffer from the Influenza outbreak of 1919, and mostly they could be overlooked or simply left out of the story.

“Dorrie” hocks her beloved Graflex camera early in the story, but pops up a little later on making portraits with a 35mm Leica camera.
Really?

The Leica wasn’t announced until 1924 and production and first sales were 1925, I’m not sure of The Bohemians time setting but its highly unlikely “Dorrie” would have had access to one.  Still in the concept of the storyline it’s pretty inconsequential what she shot with. Dorothea Lange was making fine portraits and story-telling street shots no matter what camera she used.

Medical Update #5,  #kneetoo, is on the move, managed today to walk a few hundred metres up to the community centre in our village and enjoy a chat and coffee with several friends.  Full-steam ahead.

Stay safe

Saturday Evening Post #138 : That Old Deja Vu Feeling Again Again!

Been chatting, but you know, socially distanced, with a number of people over the current lock-down covid situation in our area. All of them had suffered through the long lock-downs of 2020.

Most said the current restrictions (with or without having had a vaccine), initially weren’t that hard to get settled into. But, and it seemed to be pretty universal, within a few days we all seemed to come to the same feeling, helplessness, that we’d not experienced the first time through. Not a depression, mind, but rather a niggley feeling of how quickly we had succumbed to the inevitable. It’s not an anti-lockdown thought/ Most of us appeared to at least except the need to contain the outbreaks.
But it all adds up, another quarantine failure, lack of speed on the vaccine programme, groups of vulnerable people that have been ignored, nursing home outbreaks, name calling—she said, he said—political infighting, and raging rampant fear news.

That we can talk about it and more importantly laugh about it seemed to be a good tonic

Medical Update #4
#kneetoo, is still dealing with a numbing pain of the replacement, and the long process. The good news is she is quite on the move and walking quite freely. Her physio was here the other day, and after a walk up and down the hallway, the physio said, “It’s a fine sunny day, would you like to take a few steps outside?” And so she did.
The physio opened the door and #kneetoo stepped outside.

Every bird for kilometres around felt a shiver up its spine 🙂

While all this was going on, I was sitting on a small bank of sand overlooking the beach and a number of Greater Crested Terns were taking turns (pun intended) fishing along the water’s edge.

This one had returned empty-billed, much to the chagrin of it’s hungry juvenile

Saturday Evening Post #137 : Travel

“All journeys have a secret destination of which the traveller is unaware, ” so wrote philosopher, Martin Buber.

Mr Buber, certainly lived and wrote in a world out beyond the ken of your average blog scribe. But at the risk of doing him a bit of a mis-service, his basic go-to was about the relationship between ourselves and others. It get’s complicated after that, but extends to between ourselves and the around. And that has for me, connections with the Dao, that these days, of pop psychology gets, labelled, “Mindfulness”.

Medical Update. #kneetoo is moving about at home and getting mindful about her new knee. Hasten slowly is certainly the order of the day, and now we are all back in Covid Lockdown again—at least, hopefully temporarily—we don’t have anywhere to go anyway.

A blog I follow, is by Robin Whalley, The Lightweight Photographer and he has been discussing his choice of gear for his outdoor landscape rambles. And it struck me, at least I thought obviously, that while it’s nice to have a range of equipment to choose from, you know:
This camera,that lens, this ISO, that Filter, Use Flash, work with Early, or Late Light, and the myriad of other decisions we might encounter,
Sometimes, for us wildlife photographers, the secret destination, or subject, presents itself and we might not have that ‘special’ piece of hardware with us.

And I find myself having, excitedly—not limited by—to work with something that hasn’t been there before. To See Anew.
It happens in the backyard, out in the field, by the water, among the wonderful forests and of course involved with the surprising life of birds. And it takes on such an amazing range.

Here is the master, Lao Tze at this best,
Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream,
Alert like men aware of danger,
Simple as uncarved wood
Hollow like caves
Yeilding. like ice about to melt
Amorphous like muddy water

The early Hebrew poets said it this way.
Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)

Each trip small or large out behind the camera small or large, has the unlimited potential of a secret destination, I enjoy being able to flow with the world around and be shaped by eternal forces

It is a wonderful journey.

Jacky Winter says all that, but uses a lot less words.

Saturday Evening Post #135: Confiding Jacky Winter

Medical Update: #2
#kneetoo is home from hospital and beginning to move about on crutches.  No big walks yet, but is keeping balance and doing the physio exercises.  Still a fair bit of pain as the body is not yet quite ready to accept that it has an invader, and the immune system is punching out plenty of antibodies, so the area is still very swelled.  Hopefully all being well, things will improve.
Thanks to all who have passed on their best wishes and kind thoughts.


One of the last walks we did on the old knee was in the Eynesbury Grey Box forest.   Every time we do a trip out there, we spend a bit of time on a forest edge track as it can be a likely spot of Jacky Winter. I wrote about the last trip in a bit more details here. # 131 Laughter

There is something special about Jacky. It is certainly not the most colourfully marked bird in the forest, but its colour scheme harmonises with the grey box surround and makes it hard for predators to spot.
When they are hunting, they have a habit of tail spreading to reveal the white edges of the tail feathers and then landing on a branch and ‘tail wagging’ much like a Willie Wagtail.

Often out of breeding season they hunt together and having found one, a second one will be close by.
We eventually found a pair hunting along a sunlit track. Getting ahead of them, and sitting or standing still, allows them to come into the area at their own pace and relaxed and usually they are quite fearless in their approaches.

This pair seemed happy hunt from one branch to a small shrub across the road and quickly got into a stride of landing and flying between the two spots.  As they were quite close it wasn’t too long before they were brave enough to land within arms reach.  The sunlight through the trees gave plenty of opportunities to choose great backgrounds.

Jacky seemed to enjoy the attention.

Saturday Evening Post #133 :Bell Like

I had the opportunity the other day to go to a presentation by an acquaintance, (not a close friend).  It was among her first out-in-the-open, in front of people, speaking assignments.

It has been said that if asked to speak in front of people, over 70% will say, “No, not me, I’d die if I had to  speak in public.”  I once saw that equated to the fact that at a funeral 7 out of 10 would rather be IN the coffin than, delivering the Eulogy. 🙂

With the inevitable, pauses, loss of thought chain, mixed up notes, nervous hair rearranging and the odd apology, she kept going and the ‘ordeal’ was over.
And do you know what? She’ll get better.
In a couple of years, should she have to speak to the same group, it will be a fully polished professional presentation. Full of confidence, because apart from the learning, she believes in the topic at hand. So much that the struggles will be forgotten—not erased, just no longer daunting.  The one thing we took away was her sincerity.

It has also been said, and attributed to several sources, that

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”,

Some sources wrongly attributing Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching add.

“When  the student is Fully ready, the teacher will disappear.’

And so for my new-speaking friend, the struggle to hold an audience will disappear and the message will be bright, clear and unhindered. How cool is that.

As I sat listening, I was drawn to the idea that no matter the art form, and photography is one such form, we want to uncover the techniques, the knowledge, and the craft, that will best resonate with our vision.
So we search.

And our experiences strike us, (as Deng Ming Dao says, “… like a stick hitting a bell and we learn about ourselves.”), like an experiment.  Education comes from the results of that experiment.

With so many creative photographic possibilities, it’s always an adventure behind the camera. Each experiment holds a chance to hear the clear ring of the bell.

Keep takin’ pictures.  We do.

Saturday Evening Post #132 : The Great Romance

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
Attributed to Albert Einstein

Writers rely on keeping a notebook.  It gets filled with story or article ideas, and scraps of ideas.  Artists keep a notebook filled with small detail sketches, ideas for design and musings. Musicians also have a book in which words for songs, riffs and other musical factoids wait to be turned into the next great composition.

Photographers that I trained with keep, “Day Books”. A detailed set of instructions of how to light a subject, names and addresses, snippets of an idea for the next shoot, calculations of various lens/aperture combos.

I used to have, (somehow lost in all the transitions) the last day book of one of my mentors, (Probably one of the best Black and White printers of his day—Well at least I thought so).

All sorts of goodies were in there, here’s one “Bellows Extension Factors” :-).  How much chemical to put in a certain developing solution.  Bring home 2 bananas, a loaf of bread and a jar of plum jam, etc.  You get the drift.

We also take a photo, move angle, subject, lighting, come back another day, all part of the collecting of visual notes. Sifting through those ideas surely has helped to prepare for the right moment.

A photographer who published 15 years of his day books is Edward Weston.  Too expensive to own, and I’ve only ever seen one volume, in a library.  Here is a site that shows some of his work.  Caution there are some quite explicit images among them. Edward Weston Gallery

These days as a blogger, I keep notes all over the place.  Some electronic, clipped from web pages, snapped out of books, handwritten in a note app. Also still use the old standard, Moleskine A5 book, and somewhere a Spirax  wire bound student book. And the odd stickit note or two.

Here’s a couple that struck me the past week or so.

Vision: As photographers we are image seekers, and taking that view, life becomes one great romance, an amazing opportunity and journey to see marvellous things all the time.

Expectation: I go out expecting to see greater things, find new opportunities for visuals and experience fortuitous moments. It should bring a freshness and zest to my times behind the camera.

And so it was that #kneetoo and I found ourselves in the sunshine with a family of recently arrived Flame Robins at the Point Cook Coastal Park.

This busy young lady was hunting off the fence line.  The birds at Point Cook, as at the Office, use the fence lines as there is little available perching space otherwise.  This is open grasslands. Shrubs and bushes are non-existent. And the good people of  Parks Vic have kindly mown the grassy verges around the fences providing an ideal hunting area for the robins.  Not wonder they love it.

She jumped onto the post, and it struck me to move a little further along the fence and use a distant pine tree as a rich dark backdrop, and then I spotted the highlight of sky between the branches.

Looking for such visual occurrences, is indeed a great romance.

Enjoy

Saturday Evening Post #131 : Laughter

Sometimes I ponder the direction of the Saturday Night Posts, and worry that I start to sound like some out of context guru who can hand out unhelpful, if not misleading, platitudes.

It is like, at least to me, that I’m developing a creed of not believing in laughter. Yet we live in a world of constant change; seasons, food preferences, political landscapes, health and friends. And so many others for such a long list.

I used to write with a pencil, then a ballpoint, and a pen.(actually at school we used nibs and ink, but really those scratchings don’t qualify), now a lightweight untethered keyboard sits on my lap as my fingers fly over the keys. (mostly the backspace one for corrections, but hopefully I puck erer plikc or pick up most of them. 🙂

Part of those changes at a personal level is my own photography. Equipment, processes and styles rotate about, some lead down rabbitholes into a wonderland, sometime the rabbithole hits a large old rock or root and ends.

So I hope that it all doesn’t become to staid, and too predictable and too serious.

#kneetoo and I,  had been walking in the Eynesbury forest and due to concerns of her aforementioned knee we had kept our perambulations to just a few short distances.

It was time to go home, and as we approached the park exit, we thought one quick look down a bush track might take us into Jacky Winter territory.
So, we went.

Just for a few minutes, mind.

At one of Jacky’s known haunts, we stopped and looked and listened, no  familiar “Peter, peter peter” calls from the area.  “Oh”, she says, “let’s go up to the next track bend.”

We went. Quiet as.  Not content we moved further down the track to the next, and then the next and finally turned a corner about a kilometre from where we started.

Way up head she noted the flash of white feather on grey wing, and so we set off.

Jacky and Jacky were working on insects on the trackline. A simple process for them.  Start on one main branch, fly out grab an insect and land on the  a branch on the other side of the track.  Makes for great photos of these beautiful little birds sitting tummy down as they usually do. Then they would reverse the process and flit to the first branch, and then back again.

I decided for the ‘inflight’ Jacky shot.

Missed the first few completely.  Set up the focus to grab Jacky as it launched, and hopefully the focus would be in the right spot.
Try again. Great shot of the forest behind, but no bird. 🙂
Now it’s been said, practice makes perfect.  Or as the ‘positive thinking’ gurus say, Perfect practice make perfect.

Jacky seemed content to let me try again, and eventually I managed a bird at the very edge of the frame.
I think Jacky saw my satisfaction while ‘chimping’ the result, and with a quick scolding ‘Peter’,  for goodbye, the pair flew off into the forest.

#kneetoo and I made our way back to IamGrey and home.

An encounter with this most amiable little birds is never permanent, but an ephemeral moment.

As Deng Ming-Doa writes, ” As we laugh at the world, we should realise that understanding the changeable nature of life (and the universe) is the swiftest way to joy.”

Enjoy the richness of your next laughter.

Saturday Evening Post #129: Finding Expression

Deng Ming Tao asks an interesting question in an article entitled “Angles”.

It is worth considering, he asks, what does it take to make an angle?

You can make a table from a plank of wood, on two upright slabs. It might even look like Stonehenge. Yet, while the stones have stood the test of time, three loosely arranged planks would most likely topple.

A table manufactured by a craftsperson, is a joy to behold. Each piece in place, each piece supporting the whole, and each, a small work of art in its own right.  The table is a greater because of the strength of all the small parts.

“To put things together and then hold them in proper angle is one of the miracles of skill.”

Over the years, my own photography has been that sort of journey.  Each new skill learned has lead to an expression of a subject in a harmonious balanced way.  And please don’t get confused that I’m talking about some compositional rule.
Each subject requires the tensions of the ‘angles’ to be suitable to best express the mood, emotion, feel and vision.

Like so many pursuits, photography has lead me on a voyage across wonderful waters. But there always comes, as a sailor says, the time when it’s no longer the right thing to hug the shoreline, but rather to unfurl the sails and head out into the wider ocean.

Not all is plain sailing, to continue the analogy, but securing the angles with knowledge, skill, experience and dogged determination, will result in photographs that carry within them a little of the photographer’s vision. Built, like a finely crafted table, on our aspirations.


#kneetoo, and I were on the road outside the Treatment Plant.  Early morning light, and as we drove along looking in each paddock, we missed the Hobby sitting on a post. Then as we drove by, I noticed it.  Too late to stop.

Down the road 100 m, and turn around.  Then drive leisurely back as if we still hadn’t noticed it.
The birds in the area are very familiar with passing vehicle traffic.
It passes.
They barely blink.

Passed without any problem, and then to park off the road, the bird was on #kneetoo’s window side. She was happy.

I slipped out of the door, and edged along the top of IamGrey.
The bird was still unperturbed.

A large truck came around a corner and down the road toward us.  The bird waited. Took notice of the oncoming vehicle.  Did some Hobby calculation about the speed of the approach, our position on the roadside, and concluded perhaps that there wasn’t going to be enough room for all three of us.

A quick unfold of the wings.  It was gone.

Enjoy

 

Saturday Evening Post #128 : White-bellied Sea-Eagle

From our recent early morning trip to the Western Treatment Plant.

The Plant holds many great photo opportunities for such a wide range of birds, but probably the highlight for us, other than a rare species, is the White-bellied Sea-Eagle. 
They don’t seem to claim the area for roosting or breeding, but rather it’s an opportune smorgasbord for the picking. 

It is not highly unusual to see them, but most times they are just too far away for great photography.  And give up on the idea of ‘sneaking’ up on one.   

So a conversation starter for the day, as we head into the plant, is, ‘I wonder if we’ll see a Sea-Eagle today?”

As we ventured further into the Plant, at Lake Borrie, one of the busiest ponds, we saw several White-winged Black Terns fly past, and I parked the IamGrey a little further along the track, with good views across the lake, and #kneetoo called, “A Sea-Eagle out on the tree.”  
And there was.  
How could anyone doubt!  It might be a knee, but that doesn’t affect the eyesight it seems. 🙂

The Sea-Eagle was way too far on the other side of the lake for good images, so I decided to walk back up the roadway to where the Terns had been working.  However after a few minutes it was obvious that they had moved on. 

A Little Grassbird caught my attention in the reeds, when all of a sudden the high pitched call of startled Pink-eared Ducks rolled across the lake.  
Conclusion? The Sea-Eagle had taken to wing, and knowing its predisposition for duck-dinner, the Pinkies were not hanging around waiting for an invitation to share a meal. 

But, where, I kept peering was the Sea-Eagle?  With the sky covered in Pinkies, it took a few moments to pickup the slowly climbing white shape above the alarmed ducks.

I’m often a bit jealous of my seaborne photographers and their work with Sea-Eagles. At least it’s certain where they will be travelling—along the shoreline.  Inland birds have all points of the compass to choose from when they fly, and it is almost always away from any photographer. 

This bird had a purpose, and I pretty much held my breath as the shape grew larger and larger in the viewfinder, and I realised I was on its flight path and it would run by me on the left.  Time to fill up a memory card, so I switched to multi-frame and began to shoot small 3-4 frame bursts. 
Still it kept coming. 
The early morning light—astute readers will remember form a recent post, “Front Light” —was coming over my shoulder, and all I had to do was keep the bird in the viewfinder and follow along. 

Eventually, it was too close, and too large in frame, and went by me on its way to its next appointment. 

 

Saturday Evening Post #127 : Formidable Ancestors

I have been musing the past week over the horrendous floods that have swept through parts of New South Wales. Having lived and worked in the area around Newcastle and Maitland in another universe, I had more than a nodding acquaintance with what ‘High Water Mark’ means. 

What struck me even more were the visuals, both video and still photography, of the rescue operations, and the shattered lives that were saved from the merciless waters.

It took me back, to a photograph that had quite an impact on me as a young lad.  (I’ve searched across the web, and haven’t been able to locate a copy sadly). 
The photograph was taken around 1961 or 1963 as best I can recall.  I’m fairly certain it was taken in Newcastle, or perhaps Maitland, but I do know it was in that area.  I think also, and I’m trying to recall a young lad’s impression of the image, that it was a newspaper front pager. And because of the circumstances I remember the image, it was most likely a Walkley Award winner. 

The photograph showed a small child, and the mother being rescued into a boat from the surrounding waters, with a rescuer in the water with the pair.  What struck me, as a young lad, was, that the child could have been me. And of course the mother, my own Mum, and rescuer any number of people I’d known to help out folk in crisis. 

The impact of the image is important, because it is probably the first photograph I can recall that was more than a record of some event. It carried a personal story—an emotion of the agony of the family, the drama of the rescue and the concern of the man helping in the water. 

Up to then, my interest in learning photography was limited to photos of a cat called “Blackie” in the safety and security of our backyard.  Here in this one image was a world that outside of my childhood interest and I saw how powerful photography could be at storytelling.  So much so that it is probably at that moment the first spark of making photography my life passion was kindled. 

Now of course, as a blog scribe I have to be careful not to read a lifetime of experience back into a childhood lightbulb moment, but the point is that image is one that I can recall, and the magazine I saw it published in travelled with me for quite a few years of my youth.  Sadly one too many moves, and changes of interest, and now, I am bereft of the photo, but hold still the vivid memory. 
As I contemplate it now, it is to my loss, that I didn’t follow through with that initial enthusiasm, and I chose to work in fields other than documentary photography. Yet I feel that every time I press the shutter, something of that lightbulb moment is present. 
I also came across a quote from writer T. S. Eliot this week, he of The Waste Land,  in an essay from 1919. He was deploring the tendency of many critics to only be interested in novelty and difference from other’s work. 

He wrote, “… not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously.’

So I muse, how much of that photographer of the moment of pathos influenced the work I’ve made over the years, and of course how much of my current, and future work.  Rhetorical, I understand.

Here is an image I found while I was searching that was taken several years earlier in the same area, and while not the visual impact of ‘my’ photo, it shows what dreadful impact the floods have on people’s lives. 

This is not the photo I have spoken about, but gives the idea of the work of press photographers at the time

copyright is Newcastle Herald

Now back to the present.
The weather has kept us home the past few days, and #kneetoo has been to a number of medical rounds as the foundation for her new addition.

I took the time to clean the camera, lens and kit, and was outside just checking the focus and things, when Tai Chi pigeon dropped by to see how my practice was going.  Seeing me otherwise engaged it moved to an outside fence, and for just a moment turned toward me against the rich dark shadows of the neighbour’s tree. 

Might not win a Walkley, however I enjoyed the company for just a few moments. As I pressed the shutter, I realised I’d left the exposure set for a much darker scene a few clicks earlier.  Overexposed! Oh dear. A quick twirl of the dial and I was back in the groove.
Which just goes to show, that like all good craft skills, photography needs a dedication to keep sharp for what may happen next.