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.

Saturday Evening Post #149: Gratitude

It is funny, as in complicated, how some things just keep rolling around about the same time, but always seem to have some link.

The word “Gratitude” has been at the head of the pack for me this week.

A Chinese Proverb says, “When you drink water, spare a thought for the source”
As it turns out, I’ve been taking the time, and the energy, and the obsession I normally reserve for things in the birding world and doing a bit of research and investigation into some of the more esoteric aspects of Tai Chi.

The ancients divided the “elements” of the world into Five parts.  Won’t bore you with the examination, but essentially they are Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire.   Each is linked to a season of the year, and there are so many health, hygiene, meditation and spiritual elements to it all that has so far escaped my attention, but it has given me a new area to explore during the current catastrophe that is upon us. At least it’s a distraction.  🙂

I take my hour of exercise first thing in the morning.  As a photographer, I walk a little in the pre-dawn and then turn for home just about on sunrise.  On a good day, and today was one such day, the crisp blue sky gives way to the brilliance of the sunshine skating low beams of light across the local wetlands and slowly but surely the shapes emerge, the colour glow, and the world seems to me to be in harmony for that 30 minutes or so that I walk home.

I also stop by a little secluded, off the track location that I’ve discovered and make it a practice to add some Tai Chi routines to my enjoyment of that morning light.

It’s only a little pond, I am thinking of calling it “My Beautiful Spot”.
And this morning as I was settling into the routine, a flurry of wings sped by my head and with a ‘splossssh,’ a Pacific Black Duck landed on the water in front of me. Completely oblivious to my presence, it paddled about the pond, came to a spot near where I was standing and stepped out of the water for a bit of wing stretch and preen. I had to slow down my Tai Chi so as not to put it to wing.
Eventually it paddled back to the far side of the pond, and lifted vertically out of the water and was gone.

My beautiful spot took on quite an awe of optimism. For just a few moments.  I had a friend. 🙂

I managed to sneak a photo of duck, poor quality as the sun was still a sleepy-head, but hey, it was the best encounter, I’ve had this week.

During the week, I drove down to the end of my 5km radius to see how the Black Swan Family were doing.

And another touch of sunshine and some healthy looking young cygnets also lifted my heart.
Enjoy.

Remain Safe

From: The Fortress: The Global Headquarters of the Doona Hermit.

 

Saturday Evening Post: #148.1 Humbled by Onion Grass

Not often I add an addendum to a post, but the wonderful responses to last Saturday’s Onion Grass, really reached out to me.

Thanks to all those who commented and opened up a little about their thoughts on creativity, awareness and the emotions that flowers have across a range of cultures and communities.

Always good to have a touch of feedback that gives me a little tug on the old heart.

And humbling in the way that Lao Tzu would say,

See others as yourself. See families as your family. See towns as your town. See countries as your country. See worlds as your world.

Who would have thought a tiny little unpresuming splash of purple among the vastness of the sedges and weeds at the local water basin would reach to touch so many of us.

Thank you again for taking the time to ponder and rejoice.

Saturday Evening Post #148″ Ode to the Humble Onion Grass

If you are an avid gardener, and particularly if you are fastidious about your pristine lawn, then:  Warning!  Click away now. Nothing here to see.

Hey, were did they all go???

Onion grass (Romulea rosea) Do a Google search and the first 1,200,000 hits are all about eradicating it from your lawn.
But.

I like Onion Grass, well at the least the flower and there is a back story.

Many many years, ago, when as it turns I was less then half as old as as I am now, I had what at the time was described as a “medical incident”, details aren’t important, but I ended up in hospital, undergowing life-saving surgery that in itself was brutal enough to bring many people down.
I don’t recall any of it, as I remained sedated for quite the week or so. I’m told on good authority that the first two nights the night-shift nurse sat by my bed and held(squeezed) my hand most of the night to keep me focused.  Must have worked. 🙂
I never did get to meet her, or to offer a simple “Thank You”.

More weeks in hospital, mostly putting weight back on I seem to recall, and eventually I was able to sit up, and a few days later I was discharged, and then spent more weeks at home mostly in bed, just recovering.
—Stick with it,  We’re getting to the Good Bit 🙂

Finally I was able to get out of bed and shuffle about the room, then the house, and by now I could longingly look out the window.
The timing of all this was the middle of winter,  June, July August.  Just about this time of the year. Slowly both the weather and I began to improve.

On one of those hand-picked rich warm sunny August days, when the wind was low, the sun was bright and the whole creation seemed to sing, I looked out the back door at the dear old welcoming green lawn, opened the door boldly and tentatively stepped out.  No earthquake, no general swaying and lurching, and the warm sunshine was, well so inviting.  I, like Neil Armstrong before me, took one more step from a man, and one giant leap for … me!  I stepped off the footpath on to the grass.

As I looked down to enjoy the greener view, and also coincidentally just to check that I had my feet the right way round and I wasn’t falling over, I noted a tiny small purple flower just ahead of me in the grass.  I shuffled over for a closer look.  It was the first spring Onion Grass flower.  I looked about for more, but if they were there, they were outside of my view.
So I settled on the one I could see.

There it sat.  No concern for being in the wrong place—the right place for me! Just humbly doing its job of soaking up the sun, full of life and promise for its species.
And well, ya gotta remember I ain’t been out for a couple of months.  That little purple splash and I bonded.

So much so that just about ever spring wherever I am, and I come across the richness of that purple among the green, it’s enough to stop me in my tracks and be very happy to enjoy the memory of that encounter so long ago.

Fast forward to the present. I was walking among the sprawling sedges and reed beds in our local wetlands the other day. It’s not even a wet lands,  simply a water retaining basin to protect the local housing development areas from storm water, cleverly disguised to look like a wetland. Mostly, as its requires a lot of rain, it’s dry.
Hard to find birds there at the best of times, even Australasian Purple Swamphens use it as an access to somewhere more suitable.

And as I meandered along, out of the corner of my eye, a splash of purple.  There is an ancient Bible text that says, “..’I must turn aside and see this marvellous sight,…
And so I did.

There quietly waving in the breeze, the little purple flower declared to the world, “Here I am”, and me, well I was delighted at the find, as it means Spring is well and truly on the way.

New Life always has such promise.

Saturday Evening Post#146: Awareness

Triptych: “A group of three photos displayed together. Usually with a common connection of feel, subject or meaning.”
—”the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”

I had a work colleague, many years ago, who specialised in in Triptytch. His field of work was, of all things, English countryside pubs.
As a young photographer, as he would tell the story, as he travelled about the ‘olde country’, he did stop at the pub for at least a quick pint. By the end of a day’s photoshoot, again, as the story was told, he was quite the merry, and the photography intent did suffer.

His little Austin van carried in the back, a selection of quite large potted plants. Usually colourful flowers and bushes, or the occasional small formal tree.
Once he had found a suitable location, the lighting was right and the best angle for the shot was selected, he would, ‘arrange the studio’ by tastefully placing, or replacing existing pots from his collection.

When he arrived in Australia, he started the same process, but, the sweeping expanse of Australia’s countryside meant it was a long dry drive between suitable pubs, and your average pub on the dusty road of the  Lachlan plain, while a useful metaphor in a Banjo poem, didn’t seem to take all that well to a few carefully arranged geraniums out the front.

He turned for awhile to making triptych of vast mountain ranges, and it was about the time I contributed several photos to his endeavors.
It is an interesting process to shuffle through a range of prints, looking for the special magic that connects them is a way the makes the whole so much greater than the strength of the individual elements.

From my previous “Little Journey’s” post you’ll know that #kneetoo and I had taken a run to the Treatment plant in the sunshine.

I’d also written the previous Saturday Evening Post #145  about mindfulness and being in the moment.
I had need earlier in the week to attend my local doctor’s clinic for a discussion with my GP.  Among the various topics discussed, he made an out of left-field suggestion that, “Perhaps you might like to try ‘mindfulness’.”
To which I was happy to respond, “Well I wrote a blog on that very subject at the weekend, and I incorporate it in my Tai Chi training and photography. What would you like to know?”
But,
As I discovered at the treatment plant working with a number of quite co-operative Brown Falcon, I’m a bit rusty on the reflexes and awareness of the subtle signals Brown sends just before it throws from the perch and is gone. Brown generally jumps down, and away.
Not great for infight, however it is possible to get a just-on-the-wing-unfurl and sometimes, the light, the angle and Cartier-Bresson, ‘decisive moment’ collude and a worthwhile result makes its way on to the memory card.

But when you’ve lectured, written, and extolled the virtues of “Awareness” for weeks without practice, the Karma is also going to be ready to bring me back to reality.
Such was the case with four Browns

They all were in no hurry to go anywhere, and we were quite happy to sit or stand with them. The joy of watching the bird at work in its environment soon sees the minutes melt away.

Then when the time to go occurs, and the camera better be more than ready. Arms ache, feet move to better balance, a step to include or exclude some background object, and waiting.
But sad to say, each bird slipped off the post without me even getting the shutter release halfway down.  Karma!

It once again reinforced to me how much of what observing these amazing birds reveals, and how much each is an individual.

More to learn.

Quick Triptych from a Lightroom printer Layout Style. All just moments before departure.

 

 

 

Saturday Evening Post#145: 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