Saturday Evening Post #164 :Hide and Seek

We have, for the past few weeks been engaged in a game of Hide and Seek, with a pair of Sacred Kingfisher.

They come down along the Werribee River every year for the nesting season. It is not too hard to find a bird.  Their calls through the forest highlight the general direction.
They also tend to use the same branches as hunting perches.  So if we are prepared to sit in one location for a while, (translated into real time, anywhere between one or two hours), they are more than likely to turn up.

Being able to find where they might, will, or possibly could nest remains a bit of a game.  They make all the rules and it’s somewhat difficult to determine their intent.

So it’s not unusual to have seem them peeking into a hole in a tree here, being ejected from another by rather vocal, and aggressive Red-rumped Parrots who ‘own’ the nest. Harassed by Rainbow Lorikeets at another prospective hole, and chased by Willie Wagtails, just because they can.  And of course the WIllies have their own broods to protect.

However EE is not one to give up easily and at last, she is pretty sure she has found their location.  Of course nowhere near the areas we had been searching.
We found them working on a dead River Redgum.  A damaged section must be hollow on the inside and they had set about ‘drilling’ into the decayed branch.
It took several days before they had made sufficient headway as to have access to the inside of the trunk.

The two pictures are three days apart and the hard almost unyielding wood can be seen in the lefthand shot. However, they seem to have persisted and now have made an entrance into the chamber.  There are two holes they have been working on, and I’ve no idea which will be the chosen entrance.

TIme.  Will tell.

Saturday Evening Post #163 : Stoic by Nature

Spent an afternoon in a Grey Box forest recently.  Not often we get to spend time in a forest.  Yet, once upon a time, in a universe somewhere around the corner, this blog started keeping track of my visits to Woodlands Grey Box forest.
And most of the subjects of the time were bush birds.

However just on 8 years, (my, doesn’t time fly), we moved home to an area that is pretty much bereft of any sort of forest stand and is primarily open Basalt Plains Grasslands.

Gone are the small forest birds like Robins and in their place are numbers of small, but difficult to locate grass dwellers.
At the top of the food chain are the raptors—Kites and Falcons.

Most are nomadic at best, but usually Brown Falcon is local. Working a territory and not travelling too far to follow the food.  Being pretty catholic in diet, they have plenty to choose from in the grasslands.

That’s the thing about Browns.  Hot or Cold.  They are there.
The scorching 40 degree days of summer.  The high windy gale-force days.  The days of incessant, if not persistent rain. No matter what.
Brown sits and waits. It is their nature.

In some respects if we were to anthropomorphise, I’d be inclined to call them Stoic.
But as we don’t anthropomorphise, I won’t. 🙂

One of the tenets of Stoicism was (is?)”in accordance with nature.” Because of this:
the Stoics thought the best indication of an individual’s philosophy was not what a person said but how a person behaved. To live a good life, one had to understand the rules of the natural order since they thought everything was rooted in nature.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism

I am convinced that Browns really do understand the nature order around them.  To watch one slip off a branch, and head along the paddock as just a few cms over the ground, dodging branches, bushes and the like is to watch a bird that has ‘plotted’ the area.
The other day, as we were watching with Cassia, of Cinnamon, she suddenly picked up her skirts and moved to a tree about 50m away, but more out in the open. I said to Mr An and EE, but more likely I just said it out loud as commentary, “Brown Falcons, don’t just move from one tree to another for no purpose.  She has moved for her reason and no doubt it we wait a little bit it will become apparent.”  Don’t want to sound like a Falcon prophet or some-such,  but we waited.  Within 5 minutes the Male turned up with lunch.  The more open tree was the perfect place for a quick food exchange.
No doubt she had seen or heard him when he was a long way out and prepared herself to receive the delivery.

During nesting season, it is a little hard not to have sympathy with their main food source of the young.  Cassia, of Cinnamon and her mate, have a likeness for Pipits and Skylarks.  Both of which nest in the grasses on the ground, and must be, for a hovering Falcon, an easy mark. Or for a Falcon with an intimate knowledge fo the area as it scans from a post, or tree—although there are not too many trees on your average grasslands.

Brown’s are not noted for their amazing hovering ability, but given a good breeze, they can make a pretty fair fist of it. And so at present, he is bringing in for the three young fledglings, a pipit or skylark most deliveries.

For their part the hapless grass birds have two advantages.  One they outnumber the falcons.  And they are capable of several nestings a season, so once the urgency of the falcons passes the little birds should be fairly successful.

The falcons presumably will go back to hunting grasshoppers, crickets and the occasional snake.
The young will move off to find their own territories and the exhausted local pair will go back to sitting quietly, watching for the next convenient meal.

And the Pipits can resume sitting on the fence posts without fear.

=

Saturday Evening Post #162 : On the Wall

It’s  funny thing in someways.  We don’t have many photographs on the walls of our unit.  It is not that space is limited so much, as that we have chosen not to fill it up with photos.

All the family memories and moments are in carefully curated Photo-books that are the result of one of us having  flirted with the Scrapbooking era.

For our bird encounters I  produced numerous Photo Books, first using Apple’s remarkable, and never copied, Aperture photo management programme, and Apple’s Book publishing service, and of late using Blurb, both directly and via the connection with Adobe Lightroom.

But every-so often, I make an image that above all others of recent times really cries out to me for a print on the wall.

Such is the Brown Falcon header for this blog.

The bird, or course, is Cassia, of Cinnamon. She has left a perch some 200 m from her fledged young, (they are in the tree behind me) and is making her way over to—in a motherly way—check on the kids.  Well isolated from the trees in the background, the focus on the D500, attached and held for her flight across the paddock,  at about head (mine) height.

I’ve sat with this bird through, now, four nesting seasons, and while she is not that enamoured by my presence it is fair to say that I am no longer considered a threat, and her approach is not an attack, but rather the simplest way to move to her young.

The one thing I’ve noted this time, and I have to say, I’ve missed it before, is that she ‘talks’ to the young when up close.  It is a very quiet, but distinct, ‘cluck-cluck-cluck’ very soft and very ‘motherly.’ Much in the same we humans interact with our offspring.  Cooing and Mumma and Dadda are just a few examples.
What ever she is saying seems to be done in a very warm and if I can anthropomorphise, passioned way.
Brown Falcons are more noted for their raucous calling as they barrel across the sky. Easy to pick, even when they are a long way off.

So with all of that, it really struck  me that her ‘mother’ intentions are much more than at first might be thought of for a hard working raptor.
A time for me of enlightenment.
Worthy of a place on the wall.

Here tis.

Enjoy

 

And for extra points here is another one from a much closer viewpoint from that run across the field.

Saturday Evening Post #161 Surprised by the Ordinary

I have of recent days been ‘repairing’ some damage that I inflicted upon my photo library.

Now before we all spring to ‘backups’ and backup strategy, and ‘don’t leave home without it’, the backup actually eventually became part of the problem as it literally was a copy of the error in thinking I’d made some weeks earlier.

However all was not lost, as I had an off-site copy of the original files, so it was simply a matter of reclaiming them.  But then the work of getting them back into order, curated, and settled became the marathon journey.

Of course the good side of that was I have been forced to revisit the photos of 2019 and 2020, and relive some of the outings we had enjoyed in what seems post lockdown, so, so long ago.

Those that follow along on Flickr will have seen some of those being posted more regularly as they emerge from their cocoon on the master drive(s)

None more so than the time we spent with Cassia, of Cinnamon and her two young. So instead of a disaster, it has turned into a rather pleasing journey.

Sitting with a very relaxed Brown Falcon, reminded me of some words from Henry Thoreau.

The old naturalists were so sensitive and sympathetic to nature that they were not surprised by the ordinary events of life. It was an incessant miracle to them, and therefore gorgeous gorgons and flying dragons were not incredible to them. The greatest and saddest defect is not incredulity, but our habitual forgetfulness that our science is ignorance.
March 8, 1860 Journal Entry.

One of the amazing things with this bird was her lack of concern about my presence.
I could sit by one of the trees or perches she regularly used, and just wait until her arrival.  I am convinced they know where they are going to land before they leave the perch, and will follow a course that takes them to that spot. (Not necessarily directly). I  can’t recall her shying away because I was near the landing spot. So much so, that it was no longer incredible to me, more an endless miracle.

 

Saturday Evening Post #160: Walking the Walk

It is reported that J. R. R. Tolkein,  once said, “It is a dangerous business… going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept to.”

I wonder, like dog owners, am I taking  the camera for a walk, or is the camera taking me?
Some dog owners seem so detached from their dog as they walk about, I am convinced that the dog is indeed walking them.
Dogs seem to be easily distracted.  A smell here, a sight there, a movement over there. All needs to be carefully examined and if time permits to be explored.
No matter how long or short a lead, a dog will always run at the limit. (Locked down bird photographers are no different)

The problem, if it is indeed a problem, of walking with a camera is that I lose track not of where I am, so much, as to time and place.  A few minutes planned stroll becomes an hour or more in one location.

All sorts of shapes, and tones and picture possibilities hijack me and I am, as Chris Orwig says, “Swept away by it all” (Visual Poetry, p 208)

You can, as Elliott Erwitt once remarked, “You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organising them visually.”

Working with birds the ‘organising them visually’ is quite the challenge. Small birds flee, others chose to simper in the deepest of bushes, knowing that any attempt at a photograph is useless.  Larger birds sulk and turn away. It’s easy to develop the ‘Oh, if only I was…” attitude.

We have after nearly 18 months been given the freedom to move about again.  For some it’s a trip to the shopping mall, a coffee in a piazza, new shoes, a haircut, or a visit to an art gallery.  For most of us it’s time with family and friends who’ve been similarly isolated.

So as we begin to take our first tentative steps back out into the field, so many opportunities seem to present themselves.
To quote Elliott again, “It has little to do with the things you see, and everything to do with the way you see them.”

Time to step out and enjoy the sunshine, the rain, the wind and the wonderful things that will grace our lenses.

Enjoy

Saturday Evening Post #159:

I’ve spent the past couple of days mentoring a young, beginner bird photographer.

It’s funny, I think, if you ask someone what they do, you might get I am (was) a Chemist, or perhaps and Accountant, or Motor Mechanic, Banker, or School Teacher.
But
Say “I’m a Photographer’, and its well, kind of ho-hum, yeah, but what do (did) you do for a living.
Anyone  with a mobile fone can be ‘a photographer’.

I usually answer these days, “By (pause), Training and Background, (pause), I’m a Photographer.
Not Iphoneography in there to confuse.
Still, it does lead to some interesting side discussions.

Bruce Barnbaum in his book The Essence of Photography, tells the story of two art teachers.
The first looks at the stick figure drawings of a child and asks, “Oh is that your Mum, or Sister or is it You?”  A question bound to enhance the creative expression of the budding artist.
The other will ask, much more bluntly, “Is your family really green?” And there goes creativity.

I personally can speak loudly to that, as an art teacher, in my year 8, dismissed my attempt, at a subject, as it did not fit the template or paradigm she had set.  But, I still think it was creative.  However that was, as they say, the end of my budding art career. 🙂

One of my Tai Chi masters says of learning the various forms, “Art is always changing and growing. If not, its dead”  He is quite ‘hot’ on not just completing the form the same way, each time, but allowing room for personal expression.

I’ve said here before, get a bunch of photographers together and very soon the discussion will turn to “Whatchabeendoinlately?”

And it’s not just about what work/client or style.
It usually enters into the area of what new ideas have you been exploring.

In his book, The Art Spirit Robert Heri says, A tree growing out of the ground is as wonderful today as it ever was. It does not need to adopt new and startling methods”

Flowers it has been said, don’t get all bent out of shape, and go off to seek their personal freedom.  They don’t plan to move to another location for better opportunities or bewail the climate where they are growing. They simply get on with the task.

Which leads, me hopefully to the point of the moment with Cassia, of Cinnamon.
One of the challenges I often face is getting correct exposure for a light bird on a dark backdrop or a dark bird on a light background.   Or an inflight, where the bird moves from light to shadow and the poor old camera meter just can’t keep up.
One of the reasons I shoot such work with the camera in “M”anual. There are of course a number of ways to hold that exposure, but I’ve adopted the “M” method.

Yet working with my young friend, and not wishing to ask are his birds really green (or over or under exposed), we have been discussing and practicing ways to keep exposures under control.  You may laugh, but I’ve had him shooting Aperture priority, JPEG for the past few days. It offers less room for error, keeps him behind the camera and doesn’t wander into the fantasy of the ‘digital darkroom’.

Too much light. Make corrections.
Too little light.  Make corrections.

The next few weeks will find him reaching further into the crayon box and finding he can select a colour other than green. !

Cassia was waiting for the next food delivery.  Impatiently, if Falcons do such an emotion.  She flew from one perch in the open, to another in the shade. From front lighting to backlighting and all the way through.

As Bruce  says, “Its not about technical ideas and methods… nor about making images simply because you can with the tools and apps at your disposal… It’s about, because you love photography,  putting in the time and effort necessary. ”
(In Tai Chi we call that Kung-it refers to any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete)

 

Saturday Evening Post #158: Pair Bonding

I had most of this blog written last week, and was happy with the draft.

When my blog friend Eleanor mentioned on Flickr, a book by Gisela Kaplan called “Bird Bonds” I was very interested and found a copy on Amazon Aust.  I’ve several of Gisela’s books and find them full of both researched data, and also anecdotes of birds she has observed.
I often find myself sharing on this blog about anecdotes of our time in the field, and the various birds we work with, so I enjoy Gisela’s work.

Thanks to Amazon, the book arrived quickly during the week, and as EE said, “It’s the kind of book for an early to bed night in the cold of winter.” Plenty to read and ponder.

We all follow or enjoy birds for a variety of reasons.  None more important or sensible that another.  For some its the number of birds seen on a day out. For others a desire to see as many species as possible during a year.  For others the chance to find a vagrant or rare bird among hundreds on the beach. (a skill I have to say that has not even a shadow in my gene pool, all I only ever see are a large flock of birds).  For others, a chance to document the comings and goings in their particular ‘back yard’.  And of course for photographers the chance to get that one definitive image.

I have an acquaintance who used to have a folio or folder for each species.  There was only one photo in each.  If he managed a better shot, than the older one was replaced.   So a trip though his library of images would only have one of each.

I guess I don’t fall into any of those categories.  I take most of my birding ethos from Jon Young, and his book, “What the Robin Knows”, and as I’ve said before its about building links with just a few birds.  I tend not to chase numbers, or species or even wayward vagrants.
I’m much more the sit and work with just one bird or pair.

I sometimes get asked about the things I write both here and on Flickr about individual birds, and it comes from following a pair as often as we are able.  I find the enjoyment of watching the antics of a pair one of the most satisfying things I do.   Adam asked the other week, why I don’t show a lot of Rainbow Lorikeet pics and  I do have several reasons,  one is that others are always able to show some great photos of these cantankerous birds and their antics, and sometimes, I just get so involved in watching that I forget to photograph them. :-

Some of the most enjoyable times in the field  is with pairs, as they attend to one another, wrestle with setting up home, raising young and the busy-ness of being a bird.

We have followed this pair of Purple-crowned Lorikeets for at least three seasons.  This is from  the beginning of the season last year.  We missed the main event due to lockdown, and when we retuned the old branch of the tree had fallen, exposing their nest and so they abandoned that area.  Not sure if I’ve ben able to find where they have set up this year.
As the nest hole was low down on the tree, it was quite a delight to be able to get up close and personal. They were completely unperturbed by my  presence and that took the strain of them, and me, as we sort of settled in together without any stress.

No doubt as I get through Gisela’s book there will be some of her wisdom I can share on the blog.

With lockdown now lifted in our area, it will be interesting to ponder where we can travel, but wherever a lot of the time will be sitting and soaking up the wisdom that pairs have to share.

Saturday Evening Post #157 : Roll up, Roll up, the Circus is in Town

We have finally been able to break out of our 5km border restrictions.
Not big mind you, we only needed about 7km to get to The Office.
Along the River Park walking track the bush is alive, as they say to the sounds of parrots, lorikeets and smaller bush birds, including Wagtails, all busy either defending a nesting location or challenging for better accommodation.

None, it seems, more so, than the large number of Rainbow Lorikeets that have descended on the park area.  Over the years their numbers have grown to what can only be plague proportions.  Each hollow in every tree seems to be a Rainbow chosen location, much of course to the chagrin and detriment of the smaller birds that simply can’t compete with the noisy, brash and boisterous Rainbows.

But they do have some advantages for the photographer, besides their brilliant colour scheme.

As EE commented as we walked down the track with the calls of the Rainbows ringing through the trees, “They are  bit like a single bird circus, each one has its own act.” Perhaps its partly bravado, partly the need to show-off to their peers and partly to intimidate other species.  But there is no doubt that a pair can provide hours of entertainment, as they talk, preen and dance together.

We were a bit late for the opening of this bird’s performance.
Two options I think:

It had been holding on to the bark on the branch and it had given way under the weight and it had desperately grasped the bark above with its beak,

or

It was using the bark and the balancing act to impress its mate.

Either way, as it waved the bark about with its foot, was it trying to gain balance or simply attention.

Easily able to support its weight by the beak, it didn’t seem to be in any hurry to recover and rolled around for quite a long time.  In the end, dropping the bark, it did a ‘chin up’ grasped the bark near its beak with first one, then both legs and swung up onto the branch.

Hard to say, but the crowd threw popcorn and cheered at the performance. 🙂

You can tell we’ve been locked up too long when such simple things form such great amusement.

Enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

 


Saturday Evening Post #156: A Jewel

I’ve often commented on Flickr and Facebook and other online groups, and of course here on the blog that I consider the Australian Hobby to be our most beautifully marked raptor.

It’s steel-blue-grey wing and back contrasts with the rich  chest and underwing colours and the light and dark underwing patterns all make for an impressive show.

David Hollands writes, in “Eagles, Hawks and Falcons of Australia“, in his chapter on Australian Hobby

If there is a jewel among Australian hawks,  it is the hobby. Smaller than the Peregrine, it  is lithe and slim and incredibly fast. At rest, sleek and polished with a silhouette that tapers rapidly from its slim shoulders, it has the look of pent-up brilliance waiting only for the trigger to transform potential into action. In flight the promise becomes reality, it seems hardly to have left its perch before it is travelling at dazzling speed. The wings are long, narrow and swept back in a sickle-shaped curve that is particularly noticeable when gliding. … Of all the falcons I know it is the most graceful and there are few more exhilarating sights than one that is stooping, wings curved back, eyes fixed on its target: everything taut and totally controlled:wavering not one fraction from its course and travelling at remarkable speeds for its size. (p.156)

Somehow I suspect that most of us never get to see the bird at much more than a distance, or at high-speed in a high wind, or perhaps sitting on a open perch or fence post.

But to appreciate this bold little bird requires a lot of time working with just one bird or pair, and due to their rather nomadic and social isolation, it is not often we get the chance.
I have featured a pair at nest at the Werribee River Park precinct a couple of years now on the Flickr and here on the blog.  We have had at least three previous seasons with them, and were highly anticipating getting out of our 5 km bubble to see if they had returned for another year.
And.
They have!

We have the good fortune of being only a 15 minute and 5 minute walk from their nesting area.   So it’s possible to arrive early and watch the comings and goings of both the tiercel (male) and falcon (female) and learn a little about their ability in the air.

The nest is being reused and is high in a sugargum, the multi-branching of the tree has produced substantial eight to ten branches that form a ‘cup’ and the previous owners had filled it with sticks, and as Hobbies don’t build but rather reuse, its probable that they have not refurbished the nest since its last use.

The nearby Werribee River run between some quite steep, and high sand ‘cliffs’ and Fairy Martins and Welcome Swallows among others use the area over the water to hunt for food.  It makes an easy food source for the tiercel, he sits on a branch overlooking the water, and when opportunity presents itself, with barely a feather flick he is airborne off the branch down into the river area and because the cliffs on either side give the target little hope of avoidance, is usually back up out the other side of the river in his first swoop. If he misses, I’ve not seen it happen yet.
Which brings me to another point that David points out about it travelling at both incredible speed and with unwavering trajectory.
It is hard to put to words, but on return he flies far out and then on a perfectly designed and executed arc, circles back to land without making any adjustment to his travel that I can detect. It is like a beautiful Tai Chi move.  Smooth, controlled and effortless. (In Tai Chi, the term, “Sung” would be appropriate)
At first I thought it was just a one off, but each time he came in it was pretty much a carbon-copy of previous returns.
The falcon does the same thing when she leaves the nest and returns. It’s a long arc at speed, and just as she approaches the nest, she throttles back and lands though the tree branches as light as a feather.

It’s early days in the cycle at the moment as they are still mating, but not doubt she is sitting on some eggs as he is quite the busy provider.

It is worth contemplating that over the next two months, he will bring in daily about 12-15 kills. Mostly small birds, from Martins, Swallows, Sparrows, Honeyeaters and the like.  Not so much Mynahs and Starlings. (Although they are quite plentiful). That will be somewhere around 700 dinner invitations that the invitees can’t refuse.

This shot is the tiercel, he has just passed over the food supply to the falcon and is going to take a quick rest in a tree opposite until she has eaten and is ready to return to the nest.

Covid Lockdown Restrictions not withstanding there will be more to see of this pair and their progress with the clutch.

Saturday Evening Post #155: Shadow Opportunity

Deng Ming-Dao writes,” Times of oppression and adversity cannot last forever. In the midst of great difficulty, a tiny opportunity will open—if only by chance.
You must be sharp enough to discern it, quick enough to catch it, and determined enough to do something with it.  Stick to it like a Shadow.”

“It is like a bird. If you try to catch it, you will miss. If you are always with it, moving at its speed, as much a part of it as its own shadow, then it is easy to seize.”

We have, tis fair to say, had our fill of lockdownitis. One of several pairs of Black-shouldered Kites that we’ve worked with over the years has flown several clutches of young while we’ve been at home with our four walls.

The sad thing is that the 5km limit we  have been forced to work to, just gets us to the turn-off to the road where the Kites territory begins. So it was possible to drive, and park, and like a kid looking in a lollyshop window droll on the glass.

But. Not able to get close enough to see what was going on.

The road runs off a major access road, so parking on the side, (within our limit) is fraught with its own challenges.  Myriad passing traffic, difficulty of parking on the side of the road, not to mention, standing about with a long camera lens  is likely to bring the wrath of some ‘public concerned individual” as to why we would be doing such a thing. And of course the inevitable visit from the long arm of the law.
So, we stayed away.
This particular pair, and really its the female, as we are pretty certain she has had two male companions over the past couple of years, have done their bit to keep the Kite species alive and well supplied.
Working backward, with the few clutches we had photographed without interruption and the number of clutches that were started and then we lost track of, or had begun and we came back on the end of the season with the young well and truly on the wing, we think in the past 3 years, they have had somewhere around 8 clutches.  Maybe 9.  On average she brings out 3 young, so given one known clutch failure, and one that only produced two young, it would be fair to say they have flown around 25 young birds.

Now we have a little more travel space, EE and I ventured out, among other places to see what the kites were doing, (If anything)   Parking well off the mainroad and scanning about, eventually we found one of the pair sitting high on a tree.  Not long after the female emerged from the top of a tree, and with much sqarrking encouraged the male to go hunting.
Bingo.  They have a nest.
That would be perhaps number 10 so far.  She is a bit of a workaholic.

Shadow time!  Hopefully the next few weeks will give us a chance to follow the progress.

The weather wasn’t all that kind, but here she is coming in with a fresh prize to prepare for the young, which must only be hatched for a week or so.

And just in case you’ve not seen a link before
The Peregrine Falcons high up on 367 Collins Street in Melbourne have hatched a clutch of three.
Here is a link to their video feed.

https://367collins.mirvac.com/workplace/building-overview/falcons-at-367-collins

Enjoy.

 

Saturday Evening Post #153: When Nothing is Something.

Adventures in Visual Literacy.

Ahhhh, you’ve got that old Dejavu Feeling again!

I also apologise as there has been little to write about this end during the past week.  We have been in a lockdown hiatus.

I had a couple of interesting comments and emails regarding last week’s post, and at the same time had been following a Daoist website that talked about nothing as being something.

Let me briefly explain.
“Thirty spokes share the hub of a wheel;
yet it is its centre that makes it useful.

You can mould clay into a vessel;
yet, it is its emptiness that makes it useful.

Cut doors and windows from the walls of a house;
but the ultimate use of the house
will depend on that part where nothing exists.

Therefore, something is shaped into what is;
but its usefulness comes from what is not.”
Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching

No Thing Ness is, it turns out, because of its usefulness, becomes a thing in itself.

The use of Negative Space as a photo composition element is like the hole in wheel, or the inside of the cup.  Useful because it is not the subject, yet. Provides a balance or harmony that gives the subject it’s power.

The lurking Minimalist inside me is always attracted to the simplicity of the hole in the wheel as much as the details on the spokes.
It makes us more aware of the importance of details in the subject.

It can be a contrast in sizes or volume that gives the subject some ‘breathing’ room.  As my old mentor, John Harris would add, it gives the subject a visual pause. Somewhere for the eye to relax.

And it allows the viewer to enter into the subject because of the mystery, and make up the rest of the story and emotion.

I found this motif on an early morning walk.  I see the building shape just about everyday, but with a dew on the structure and the reflection of the sky it turned into an abstract where the inside and outside spaces give little clue to the real world.

Nothing it seems is indeed Something.

Enjoy

 

 

Saturday Evening Post #152: Adventures in Visual Literacy

One of my previous mentors and a blog I follow, is David DuChemin. A practicing photographer, photo-journalist and mentor-trainer.
On a recent post, “What makes this image work”  David struck a note that parallels my own photo expression.

He talks about being able to de-construct the image to work out the elements that make it successful, and any that might detract from the story. Worth the read if you like to think about why some pictures are more memorable than others.

It is a process I’ve been fortunate to have been taught a long long time back when I was a mere wee broth of a photographer, and still wet behind the shutter button.

One of my great mentors, and a notable photographic friend and a staunch ally was, and I’ve mentioned him before in past blogs, John Harris.
John had a way of teaching that made people want to learn.  He would often say about deconstruction of a photo, “What we are looking for is the photo inside the photo.”

John and I first met when I was, for want of a better term, acting as Stage Manager for a major photographic convention and National Judging event.  Judging of National and International competitions is on par with any blood sport, and emotions, egos and competitive angst abound.
So it was not surprising that during the running of the event, as I was co-ordinating it, I was told, “John Harris is coming!”   Fear and trepidation would be the hallmark of such an appearance.  John will want to change the colour of the room. John will need those curtains to be pulled back (or forward, or removed), John, will bring his own equipment and the current gear will need to be removed. Don’t expect John to accept the furniture layout, it will need to be changed, etc, etc, and etc.
Quite the demand list it seemed.  Pity is we were running on a tight time schedule, a budget that didn’t exist and we had a power of work to get through in the time allotted. Changes, however small, were not going to happen, let alone be tolerated.
And certainly NOT on my Watch.

“John Harris is here” midway through the afternoon, I heard in hushed terms.
I expected some demi-god.  What I got was a pretty decent replica of my own Dad!

He did look the place over, suggest a few changes, we had some words, and eventually we arrived at what I expect could be called an amicable arrangement.  The show went on.

Something between us Clicked—to coin a photographic metaphor.   It was more than just respect.  We would go on to build a great relationship, built primarily around our mutual love of image, and as seekers of the story within.

So much so, that John spent a lot of time over my photos, and their progression, I reciprocated. A process that benefitted both our work.
Together we ran classes for visual literacy, and general photo training.
I was scheduled to run a two day event in a small country town, and while the locals came out in good numbers, just as I was beginning I was a bit shocked to see John Harris come through the door.  He’d heard I was there ,and had driven up specially for the day.  I added him to the programme and as he was an accepted ‘local’, any friend of John’s was a friend of all.  Suddenly I wasn’t just some passing stranger with a few slides to show, I too was part of the community.  Such was John’s prowess.

A programme we developed together, and did successfully run for several years, involved image deconstruction. John had collected a large folio of tear sheets from a range of magazines, and we would pass them out to small groups at the event ,and have them highlight the elements of the visual.  Much as David D is asking in his blog.
John’s skill was making the images meaningful, mine was getting each of the groups to communicate what they were seeing and experiencing. What lens, shutter speed, lighting, point of view, emotion, visual elements and the like, so that everyone could both share their experience with the photo, and of course hopefully use the gained knowledge in their own work.

David’s current image of the coffee barista at work is a classic shot for deconstruction.  No two of us are ever going to agree on what should and shouldn’t be in the image.  As John would remark, “If we all agreed, then someone could take One Photo of the Subject and we’d never need to take our Cameras out again. Art that is not growing is Dead!”

Thanks David for the insight, Thanks John for the memories.

A Black-shouldered Kite, hunting pre-dawn. Too simple? : Or simply Abstract?

 

Saturday Evening Post #151 :The Heathdale Glen Orden Wetlands

I’ve had a few enquires regarding the Latham’s Snipe photos, I’ve been sharing of late on Flickr and elsewhere.

And as I thought, you dear reader, needed a bit of  break from some of the stream of consciousness posts of the past few weeks, I’m going to break with Tradition for the Saturday Evening Post and put up several shots for an insight into the summer-over home for these wonderful creatures that fly all the way from Japan to take up residence in a small wetlands surrounded by suburbia and not 500 metres from a major shopping complex: The Werribee Plaza.

Heathdale Glen Orden is about 35 hectares of parkland and water retaining basin, situated in a saucerlike depression in the middle of a number of housing complexes.

There is a main feeder drain that brings water from several kilometres away from the run off of roadways and parklands, and is fed into the water-retaining area from a smaller feeder drain.  The drain is full of reeds and cumbungi and the like and the runs for several hundred metres before the water enters the lake area proper.  During that time the clever plants filter out the majority of large rubbish and begin the process of clearing the water of sediment and other detritus
The water that flows into the lake area is already quite well filtered and the large open areas of water further act to remove impurities.

The water area is quite shallow, and on a good rain it quickly fills and flows out well beyond the fenced off areas. However that very fact makes it ideal for the visiting Snipe as it produces small areas of damp mud, small dry areas for roosting and pools of water that keep a steady food supply available.

The past couple of days, we’ve had some decent rain, around 35-40mm. Perhaps even more in some areas.  This has enabled the feeder drain to pickup quite a volume of water and when I visited this morning water was extending well out over the surrounding area and footpaths around the  wetlands.  Perfect for Snipe.

The area is a favourite patch of a couple of  birding “off-siders” as my Dad was wont to say.  David Nice, from Flickr is part of the Friends of Heathdale Glen Orden and posts there , and also on Flickr. Always a good supply of info of what the area has to offer.
Dave Torr, he,  the emeritus President of the (former) Werribee Wagtails, is a local and walks the area most days. Not much misses his attention.

So here are a few shots from this morning.  I used the Nikon Z50 with its 16-50mm kit lens.  I’ve had the lens for over a year, but have rarely used it. What surprised me was the small size, it’s almost a pancake lens when folded up, and despite its lightweight feel and design is quite capable of producing very sharp, very useable results. It may not be a birding lens of any repute, but as a walkabout lightweight kit it will get a few more outings  I think.

Enjoy

Oh, I didn’t see any Snipe today, but I was running out of time on my “exercises hour”.

Across the shallow, water retaining basin.
The feeder drain that brings water from housing developments a few kilometres north. After the recent rains it has been given a new life
Toward the Eastern End. This location is usually much drier and a small feeder drain comes in at the end of the fence line.
A well formed walkway winds its way across the wetlands. But it is well overgrown and with only a few area of open water makes bird watching challenging.
Hey, Who Let the Water Out!
That’s a duck halfway down the footpath. Always the opportunist.
The western end of the lake area, normally not underwater, and a good location for spotting Snipe

Saturday Evening Post #150 : Reaching Out Visually

I came across the following poem by 16th-century mystic St. John of the Cross, titled “A Rabbit Noticed My Condition”

I was sad one day and went for a walk;
I sat in a field

A rabbit noticed my condition and came near.

It often does not take more than that to help at times—

to just be close to creatures who
are so full of knowing
so full of love
that they don’t—
Chat.

they just gaze with
their marvellous understanding.

Interesting to me, at least as it harmonised well with a chapter of a book I am reading during lockdown, which covers among other thing, the concept of “Mindfulness”.
It has a four step process, with  Mindfulness, Awareness, Visualisation, and Awakening.

Now I feel perfectly qualified to lecture on this subject as true to the Internet Uncle Google tradition, the less I know about something and it’s intricate details the more I am able to pontificate on why my way is the correct view—There is a lot of tongue in cheek in that sentence, I hope it doesn’t get too lost 🙂 .

Mindfulness in the ancient tradition is not so much about the current psyhco-babble feel-good about your body, make contact with your feet on the ground, feel you breathing and all the other paraphernalia that seems to have been attached to it by those who have hijacked it for their own needs and reasons.
Simply defined (the best that a bear with a small brain can handle), is “Focusing on One thing at a Time”  Works for me!

Awareness: Observes the world with both sensory and cognitive perceptions, (There are a lot of long words in there, Miss; we’re naught but humble pirates. What is it that you want?  -Captain Balbosssa: Pirates of the Caribbean)

My takeaway was that Awareness reaches out to be inclusive and expansive. Not just internally but of the around.
Resonates with me a  lot, as when I’m in the field, I’m not just seeing a bird, but rather there is an interaction as Jon Young describes as “building a rope.”  My birding friends are happy to see the bird and log it in their notebook, and then go search for the next one.
As a photographer, I’m more likely to consider the lighting, angle, the background, the best point of view and what that bird is doing, and likely to do.

As St J. says, being able to interact with “A Creature so Full of Knowing…So Full of Understanding”

Now it turns out, I’m not a logger of species or an inveterate note keeper.  For others, and I applaud them for their skills, it’s a matter of being able to recognise and log various attributes of the bird and build up an interesting database, both for their own use and to share online on ebird, or some other chosen platform.

So awareness is not all that complicated, but as we are in lockdown, its a skill that I find that I’m not able to put into practice. And like all skills, or craft it loses its edge from lack of use.  That’s why artists, writers, sports people and so may other craftspeople are constantly honing the skills. Top tennis players don’t get there by watching another fool-tube video or Uncle googling the best technique.

It’s probably no surprise that I walk my hour’s ‘exercise’ early in the morning. I like the walk the pre-dawn.

And I’ve added an Awareness element to it of late.
I try and notice as many things as possible during the hour out, and then when I come home, over breakfast, I take a sheet of paper and brain-dump all I can remember observing. Not to compare lists or build up a database as such, but rather, just what did I see when I was out today.

After breakfast I toss the paper anyway. As I’ll be fresh tomorrow.

Mind I’m getting a bit tired of logging 17 disposed disposable masks. But I do put down things like the splash of early morning sun on the roofs across the watercourse.   Also what work the council has done on the parklands.  And of course the inevitable, the people that I pass by.  And so it goes.

Not sure where it will lead, but at the moment it adds to the day out and is a beaut distraction from our lockdown blues.


I had need the other day to go out our local medical clinic.  After that I strolled down to see the local Black Swan family, its only a few minutes from the clinic.
I had the previous few days been photographing Welcome Swallows as they begin to prepare nests in the drains under the roadway.
I had wondered if any Fairy Martins had returned, and on this day, I heard the cheery chirping calls, and was glad to see a dozen or so Fairy Martins working over the pond, and zipping through the roadway drains.
This is one of the few that old slow D810 could captured.