Saturday Evening Post #182 : Continuation

Life is an infinite continuation
Deng Ming-Tao

Sounds like stating the obvious really. The sky is blue, the sun has set. Grass grows.
He goes on to say, that as you come to the end of one cycle, a new one will begin. Fulfilling a cycle means completion. Yet new horizons are always there, with each turn of the wheel you go further. With each turn of the wheel comes continuation.
Celebrate every turning, And perservere with joy.

As an aside there is a Qigong sequence called, “Turning the Big Wheel”, first to the left then to the right.
Some things can be instructive beyond their normal course.

Just as the three young Black-shouldered Kites have reached the end of their training and are moving on to make their own lives, we watched them go, a bit like parents whose children have left home for the first time. And with a feeling of completion of that chapter. My photo library says that over the past three months we’ve made some 26 trips to work with them.

We had spent the morning searching the tree-line and the open paddocks for a glimpe, but they are now independant of the male feeding them, and he has not been around with handouts for nearly a week. He might still flyover but they knew that he was no longer on Uber service.

Finally we spotted one far away across the highway and perched. Then watched as it hunted and successfully carried its prize back to a tree.
It was time for us to move on too.

I blogged about this time last year of the arrival of the Flame Robins at Point Cook Park, and we decided to continue on down there and as we hadn’t been in the area for many weeks, wondering what might have changed.

It was very quiet.
Last season was a disaster, just like the one before, as covid restrictions for most of the time kept us house-bound for the season(s)

We waked down to see Cassia, of Cinnamon, but she wasn’t too keen on visitors and took off across the paddock avoiding a squadron of agile magpies.

Then, a Red Flash. And Another!

They were indeed back. A quite large family of Flame Robins. Eventually we spotted three males and several females and at least two juvenile males. So they have had a good season. The year before they arrived looking a bit exhausted after their summer season. But this time each of them seemed resplendant in their winter dress and highly active.
It is interesting to see them working in the forest, but out in the open fields like Point Cook, they behave a little differently. Having flown over 100km to get here, 500m down the paddock is nothing really, and they are constantly on the move. However like in the forest settings they seem to follow a set pattern, and while it takes a few sessions to learn the cycle, getting ahead of them and waiting is still our preferred method. It is a case of, if we sit they should come.

So as our season with the Kites ends, it looks like a rich season with the Robins might be opening up.

In the end, the wheel turns—indeed continuation.

Saturday Evening Post #181 : Exposure

We all did it.
Every budding beginner photographer gets excited about a subject, then, struggles with the technicalites of making the image.

In dayhs of yore, we’d take the camera out of the box, and pour over the instruction book, looking for that gem that would help make a correct exposure. These days the first thing to do is Google for a vid by an outspoken ‘expert’ opinion (OEO) on the right way to set the camera up, how to rotate all the dials and what settings are best. And don’t we all want to use Manual Exposure and have beautiful bokeh.
The thing I find with the outspokenexpert is that rarely do we get to see any of their work, not the stuff they shoot for some test or other, but real work—but that is an aside.

Then we ponder what is the best way to determine the exposure. Spot? Centre-weight? Overall? Matrix? Does it make a difference? Now it’s my outspoken-expert-opinion (OEO) that the camera manufacturer wants you to be able to get good exposures. Not too dark, not too light, the Goldilocks effect. After all it’s to their advantage for you to tell everybody, “Oh my LTZ7132ii is getting great exposures every time”, in the hope others too will rush out to buy the LTZ7133iii update.

Then, we wrestle with light. At first we just thought, oh, well, there is light. Enough, or not enough. But tricky stuff that it is, and so essential to our craft, it comes from in front, above, behind, to the left or right, below or even subdued and filtered through, and sometimes it hides behind grey porridge clouds. Tai Chi it is said has 13 movements. Lighting near matches that.

Then there is the lens and all that silly aperture stuff: f/2.8, 4, 5.6 Why not 1, 2 3, or small medium and large?

So what is the right exposure? And so we resort to more vids and OEO, all the time wondering why our photos, are not…just so.

Like all training: football, tennis, piano or Tai Chi, the magic slowly begins to show through.
Exposure: Not correct, not under or over.


From the Heart.

Saturday Evening Post #180 : Location, Location

Hopefully by the time you read this, we will be in Ballarat for the weekend.  Big family shindig.

Deng Ming-Doa has a seveal lines of poetry about location.

Just by choosing where you stand
You alter your destiny.

Now, I suppose, from a western thought process it can be a bit too literal. As in where you live, where you stand polictally, how you see the world about you.
Yet, it has been my experience that if you change where you live, life doesn’t radically change.

Yet at another level, each choice we make does alter and affect how we live. Same for photography.

Which camera?   If I make a change of brand, will my work improve, 10%? 25%? perhaps 50%?  Or will I just have more fun playing with the new toys?

As  Deng goes on to write,  “there are no double-blind studies on my life”. Each choice I make be it lens, or camera, location, subject, lighting, or time of day brings with it its own magic.   Each study of we take is of course a choice of so many options.

The delight is being there and seeing it all unfold, and having the vision to bring it to share.

I had been waiting for this female Australian Shelduck,(Formerly Moutain Duck), to follow her mate as he took off to the other side of the pond. I suppose I expected the usual,  head out, wings up.
But my location on ground gave me a new view of this lovely duck in action


Saturday Evening Post #179: In the Blink of an Eye

Well it could be the blink of an eye, but perhaps a better descriptor would be the instant between the Nikon D500 mirror going up. And then… Coming down.

I was having a little portrait session with two of the young Black-shouldered Kites. They had been spending the morning gaining skills at working on the ground and in the long grass. Not yet able to ‘hunt’ but at least getting familiar with the process.
I had been moving about a little around the tree they were encamped in, looking to get the best from the backdrop.

So here is a bit bit of a departure from Saturday Evenning Post style of one photo, and a bit of rambling about the virtues of great photography and more a doco on the few milli-seconds between one event and the next.

Let’s settle down for a small portrait session.
What was that noise! One of the young birds is on the alert that something is happening
Suddenly, out of nowhere, and this shot is just after the shot above, the Collared Sparrowhawk barrelled through the treeline and put the young birds to wing. You can just see a tail disappearing at the top. The speed and stealth of the Sparrowhawk was so typical, and so impressive. That the Sparrowhawk is in focus is only because it now occupied where there kites had been sitting. Your erstwhile scribe was as surprised as could be when I reviewed the results and found one sharp frame.
Looking a bit perplexed as to what just happened, each of the young seemed unsure how to respond
Dad turned up to try and protect the young, and one of them followed him around very closely. To add to the drama a Black Kite and its two Magpie Attendants, also flew through the area. The male is checking to see if they pose any threat to his charges.
This one decided that if you were going to rest, then do so in the top of the tree among the leaves so a sneak attack would be less likely.

Saturday Evening Post #178: Studio Werkz

Some long time readers will remember the story of the ill-fated Studio Werkz project. The brainchild of several photographers as we wrestled early in our ‘careers’ to establish a multi-facted studio operation. Like many ‘great’ ideas the cold hard light of day came crashing in with reality and of course we all went on to follow our different paths.

But I’ve always liked the name, and often when the light is right, the subject working and the muse is bubbling along Studio Werkz comes to mind.

Such was the case the other morning working with the recently fledged Black-shouldered Kites. I was working with a polarising filter attached to the 500mm lens and the birds were pretty much on the very important angle of polarising light and it kept the sky rich and bought out the details of the feathers.

Front light is one of my fav lights for working with bird, and infact any colourful subject. What I lose in drama I make up for in rich detail and intense colour and the polar screen only enhances that.

I also came across the other day on the Topaz Labs Software site a link to one of their blog posts on “5 Tips for Amazing Wildlife Photos” by Bill Maynard.
We all know this stuff (I hope), but Bill’s points are quite succinct and his reasons for each is well shown.
I hope provides some good thinking about the photos we make as we wrestle to bring out the best of the character of our feathered subject(s)

(Be careful as its on the Topaz site, so the Topaz software will be featured-but I’m not in the business of recommending it, so just read over that if necessary)

Saturday Evening Post #177: Cow in the Kitchen

Roll up, roll up for tonight’s photo challenge question:
How do you get a Cow into a Kitchen to photograph it?

The Cow in the Kitchen photograph link. I don’t have access to the photo, as you’d expect. So you’ll need to click on the link to get an idea of what the challenges are, and the result.

Given the size of the average kitchen and the size of your average milk cow the challenge seems a bit difficult to complete.
Enter Joe McNally, legendary Joe, if you will. He reveals the answer on a page on his blog, but you’ll have to scroll down a bit to find the photo and the story.
Here is the Capture One Interview blog address

Briefly as part of his new book, The Real Deal: Field Notes from the Life of a Working Photographer Joe explains that while working in Romania he noticed that at the end of the day, the cows feeding out in the pasture, all turned for home and each went to their respective owners land. Creatively, Joe thought, wouldn’t it make a great image to have the cow in the kitchen and so he gained permission from a home owner to have their cow with its head in the kitchen.
Average kitchen, v Average cow. And how do you get said beast into the kitchen. Not being a farmer, Joe didn’t quite know, but being farmers, the locals provided the answer.
Job done!

One of the things I really like about the image is the very even lighting on the highly polished tiled floor. Makes it sing and dance. And of course the matching choice of tablecloth. It’s the little things sometimes.

As you scroll down you’ll also see the portrait Joe made of the young Vietnamese napalm girl, Kim Phuc, who went on to have a child of her own. A harsh reality within a tender moment.


Oh, and by the way the header image for the blog is mine. But as it’s the only bovine pic I could find in my collection, the cattle aware people will know this not your milking variety 🙂

Saturday Evening Post: #176 No Man is an Island

John Donne’s famous line, is quoted in Australian Magpie by Gisela Kaplan.
It’s in a chapter about,”Social Rules and Daily Life”

I shared a link on Flickr to a post regarding Magpie behaviour. Here it is.
Magpies and Tracking Devices,
Seems our erstwhile scientists in need of a research project for the old PhD decided that Australian Magpies needed some help to deal with climate change. Had they taken a few moments to read a few pages from Gisela’s book —subtitled, “Biology and Behaviour of an Unusual Songbird”, they might have saved themselves a wasted theory.
Gisela tells many interesting stories of personal interactions with Maggies and each one helps gain a little understanding of the ‘smarts’ these bird inherently possess.

Perhaps one of the more interesting lines of thought is in the opening story of the First Nations Legend of the Magpie. I’ve shared the story before, so briefly, Once in the Dreamtime the sky was very close to the earth and everything was dark and gloomy. The Magpies got together and with small sticks propped up the sky until some light got through. Encouraged by their success, they worked together to get larger sticks and open it up more… and so on, until the Sun-mother was able to shine through on the first real Sunrise. Excited by their success the Magpies still sing in the sunrise each day to celebrate, I guess, both the warmth, and their cleverness.
So attaching ‘radio’ trackers to a Maggie seemed to me to be doomed for failure, from the getgo.

Here are a couple of links to the Morning story
Peter Hancock Sydney Morning Herald
Uncle Dave Tournier with the Northern Victorian version

For a lighthearted look at the failed science attempt you can’t go past
First Dog On the Moon: Magpies: Courageous heros or little feathery b…..ds

In the final chapter, Gisela, says, ” There is no doubt that the Australian magpie is a very successful bird at many levels. … The magpie’s impressive range of social activities, its willingness to interact with people, and its propensity to invent even leisure-time activities have made the magpie almost accessible company.”
…”They have shown a remarkable ability to adapt to different climate zones. (Across the Country).

And just to show that the First Nations stories were more than just fairy-tales, but rather used as teaching tools at a number of levels here is one that shows how Magpies and Currawongs worked to make it rain on the parched earth.
And how a Magpie’s Special Song brings rains.
The Earth sang a song of happiness as the rain fell, and the Peoples of the Raven danced in the falling rain.

Magpies love to Sunhaze.
To stretch out in the warm sunshine and allow the rich warmth to penetrate their bodies. Passersby may think that the bird is ill, but rather, it seems to be in a trance. I am sure they always do it when there is a partner or family member that can warn of any danger.

A small transmitter didn’t stand a chance. 🙂

Saturday Evening Post #175 : Like Nectar

Deng Ming-Doa writes:

Sleek sky of cobalt blue;
Water like nectar satisfies deeply;
Air sweeter than the best perfume;
Sunlight warms a grateful cat

He then goes on to point out that we should take happiness when it comes.

The world comes into us via our tv news or doom scrolling on the internet.  The conversation at the coffee shop quickly deteriorates to this or that trivial woe.
My Ballarat connexion daughter once pulled that sort of talk up by exclaiming, “It’s not that important to people in Africa suffering from Covid!”

No matter how much we’d prefer it another way, we get the weather that  is coming to us. Standing outside in sunshorts, suncream and a beach umbrella will not stop the momentous storm coming on the horizon.   Similarly putting on a Drizabone and waiting for rain won’t bring it any faster.

Sometimes a trip to a birding area is like that.  We turn up with all the ‘right’ equipment and the birds are no where to be seen.  Or we take a minimum of gear and wish for that ‘magic’ piece that is at home in the camera cupboard.

EE and I were sitting quietly on a picnic table at Point Cook just recently, the tide was in, the birds were gone, and all we had was the music of the wavelets on the sand, the gentle sigh of a breeze in the pines and the warmth of the sunshine.
Sometimes it’s good to be a grateful cat.

The Welcome Swallows were feeding among the tall grasses on the roadside.  Everyso often it was time for a rest.  Some perches were more preferred than others.


Saturday Evening Post #174: Connectedness

Was talking with my highly-creative writing, daughter the other day, about the complexities of story development and the attention span of the  current reading population.  Those in particular who are connected to each other through TikTok.  None of the old ‘Facebook’ for them.  So old fashioned, how did anybody ever spend the time to read all that stuff?

We also discussed what is really a post-covid-lockdown phenomenon.  People now live in a ‘bubble’, of their own making.  Physically, emotionally, community—just about every aspect of our  lives. Each bubble has its own moveable boundaries.  Do I want to go shopping. I’ll have to wear a mask, do I want to wear a mask. I’ll have to log-in, do I want to log-in.  Each answer depends on where the bubble edges exist on any given day.  Will I read, or do I want to chill out.  etc, etc.

The conversation got a bit hairy from there, but I suspect at some levels we all are making adjustments regularly to ‘our’ bubble.

I rambled a bit last week about the Zone System, and regrettably mistakenly mis-named Fred Archer as one of the designers of the system.
Sorry Fred!

I also spoke of contrasts as a tool to establish relationships. (Which is where my conversation with said daughter comes into this).

Contrast is not just about the value of tones in the photo, but also the elements.

Following on, Relationships between those elements in our photos help to give clues to the viewer about the story within the frame.

An object larger than another, the space between or around then or a change of viewpoint, or camera angle, or even lens can change the connectedness or the implied connectedness.It places the main character of the photo into its setting. It can even imply things that are not seen in the frame.

Sometimes reducing the photo to humble monochrome brings out a relationship between tone, shapes and texture.

The young Collared Sparrowhawk was playing chasing games with its siblings.  To mine, and its surprise it landed on a log quite close, but behind a small clump of boxthorn.  It stood its ground long enough to realise the boxthorn was not enough of a comfort barrier and a moment later it was gone.

I looked at it in colour and it lacked the seperation I wanted, but the connectedness between the bird and the bush was an important element of the story, so over to Silver Efex Pro it went.
SFX has a very clever ‘Zone System’ visualiser and I turned to it to help me to see how the shadows and the highlights support the story, but not overpower it.
The SFX visualiser does not make changes, it simply shows what happens as the tones are moved up or down.

Photography is like that, as with creative writing, sometimes its the experiments that allow the photographer to become a bit more conscious of how to make the story more intentional, and perhaps compelling.


Saturday Evening Post #173: Nature Doesn’t Make Long Speeches

So says Lao Tzi. Tao Te Ching Chapter 23

Photos tell a story. One frame at time.  We don’t get the backstory.  We might never grasp the ongoing drama. There is no character development in a single photo.

Photographers and their photos are sold into a slavey of having to make the point of the subject, decisively and distinctly.

Henri-Cartier Bresson (HCB) spoke and taught the concept of “The Decisive Moment”.  And thousand of acres of trees have been cut down to  turn into paper, countless websites have come and gone explaining the author’s concept of HCB’s small statement.  So much so that photographers have pondered when is the right time to press the shutter, what should and shouldn’t be included, and how does that all support the vision I had of the scene at that moment.

Fred Archer and Ansel Adams, created  “Pre-visualization” (sic) and although it applied to their ‘Zone System”, it too has gone into the photo-psyche as a necessary tool to learn to make good photos.

Many current photographs, the ones made on handfones bound for Instagram (so 2020ish), or TikTok, are made with no knowledge of the Decisive Moment or Pre-visualisation, the audience doesn’t care.

The Zone System was at its base, and this is not the blog to explore all that in some detail, was to understand or predict in the final print how dark the dark areas would be, how light the light areas and where the mid-tones might fall.  Not a panacea for “Will I or will I not press the shutter.” Nor the countless articles and lectures given to explain it

The single image offers us some visual challenges. One way to imply the story for our viewers is contrast.
Oh yes, I’ve got one of those sliders in my Photoshop program, push it one way and it all goes murky grey, push the other and it washes out the whites and clogs up the blacks.
Contrast is a bit more than just a slider solution.

Dark tones create a sombre mood. Light tones give us bright excitement, and the mid-tones carry the bulk of the detail and content.

With colour, we can also contrast one colour against another. Blue on yellow perhaps. Those who’ve seen Spielberg’s Schindler’s List will know the significance of a red coat.

A different type of contrast is ideas, or points of difference.  Large round shape against small rectangular. Wet against dry. Moving verses stationary. It provides visual pull that lets the viewer explore the frame. Scale or juxtaposition are part of the visual contrast.

Perhaps  dead trees in a wilderness with some soft green shoots poking through the parched ground?

I’d seen this Black-shouldered Kite approaching, and as it flew by the dark trees, its light shape and form became more than just the bird in flight.  Once back in the digital space on the computer I loaded up the trusty “Nik Silver FX Pro” and just like in the old days of choosing a filter to modify a colour tone, I worked the darkness back into the trees and also picked out the lighter area with a different filter.  Time to add a little extra density and contrast by matching a film type and adding a little grain to give some texture.

Whether pre-visualised or at the decisive moment, the contrast helps to infer—if not enhance —the shape and form of the bird.


Saturday Evening Post#172 : Story Tailoring

Another week that the weather has controlled.

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

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

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

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

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

And Story-telling.

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

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

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

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

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

They flew the next day.

Saturday Evening Post #171 : Hide and Seek

When I first became interested in photographing birds, and I knowingly told myself “How easy will this be!’, one of the first books I acquired was written by Australian doctor, David Hollands, titled, “Eagles, Hawks and Falcons of Australia“.
My copy is getting somewhat dilapidated from use, but I learned several important lessons from that book.
The photos all would have been shot on ‘filum’, and no doubt most with manual focus lenses.  Or perhaps autofocus that was a precursor to the algorithms in our modern slick digital cameras.
The second thing was a very thorough field guide in the back that had great info on id of birds.
The third thing was the stories he wrote of encounters and searches for the raptors across Australia.
And, the fourth thing was the empathetic, glowing way that he described those encounters.  A style that I have tried, in a humble way, to emulate in the stories that roll of the press here in BirdsasPoetry.

David had released a new book.  Not an update or revision, but a new book. “Birds of Prey of Australia
My copy turned up this week.
Now this is not a book review nor an encouragement to rush out and buy the book, that is not what happens on my blog.

The new book has new photos, new stories and is quite different in size and weight to the previous book.  Infact it’s over 700 pages and would keep the average table quite secure if it was sitting on it and a hurricane tore through the house 😉

Some of the stories are quite interesting to me, as they tell of the same encounters with the same birds we have experienced.
He tells of an Osprey that visited for awhile out of its normal territory.  Many will recall Eloise who gave many a heart turn to those of us on the Werribee River about the same time
He also recounts the iteration of around 40 Black-shouldered Kites behind Avalon Airport a couple of years ago.  Photographing so many Kites in the mist is a memorable experience.
And finally his recent encounters with a family of Australian Hobbys as they grew up on a golfclub fairway.

There is also a full page of a Brown Falcon at WTP, and I’m pretty confident from the markings that I’ve featured that bird several times here and on Flickr.  Search here for “My Kitchen Rules

There is so much in his writing  that I pause and say, “Oh, yes, I’ve seen just that exact behaviour and wondered about it.” It’s like sitting having a fireside chat and being able to part of the discussion.

His website is:
or Andrew Isles Books:

Here is the cover.

And a page spread of the Brahminy Kite a bird that I would dearly love to photograph.  I also turned over the dustjacket flap as there is a small shot of David sitting alongside an Osprey as it enjoys its meal.  Fascinating.



We went back for another morning with the young Collared Sparrowhawks.  We might have guessed that the previous few days flying about would come to an end.
It did.
Instead we found them among the pines in the carpark playing what can only be described as “Hide and Seek”.  No doubt I’ve got it wrong, but it seemed that the object of the exercise was two-fold.  One.  Learn to sit quietly and still in the tree so noone can see you, and Two. Learn to search through the trees to find a prey sitting quietly and still to be avoided.
Once discovered there were the usual screams of delight and defeat, both birds would fly out and about and resume the game.  I’ve no idea if they changed places from hunter to hunted.

Finding a Sparrowhawk sitting in a tree is an art that even EE baulks at.  So without that superwoman power, the rest of us are ‘outtaluck’.

I was searching for ten or fifteen minutes through the trees when the game change-over occurred and this bird dropped into the tree in front of me. I moved a few steps and was able to get a clear shot as it settled into its wait and see mode.
The softer light filtering through the tree enabled a great look at the three main features of distinguishing a Sparrowhawk from a Goshawk.
The ‘stare’ rather than ‘beetle-brow look’, the longer middle toe, and the square-tail.

The light also melded well over the form and shape to give the bird a real presence, even if it wanted to be inconspicuous.

Saturday Evening Post #170 :Bedazzled

Been a bit quiet over at birdsaspoetry land this week.
Weather has been less than ideal: hot/cold/wet/windy.

Enough to make the average Doona Hermit snuggle up.

So I did a little internet browsing.  Had a chance to catch up with Thom Hogan’s site and his discussion on New Year’s resolutions, about planning Not To Switch Camera Brands.

Not that I’m brand switching, but sometimes it’s easy to fall into the “If I just had that one piece my photos would be so much better”.  I do admit to guilt on changing processing software however.  I’ve harddrives full of them.  Funnily enough, my photo work hasn’t improved using one or the other. Nor has my library ever become better organised or searchable.

Speaking of useful pieces of software, have you ever wanted—for a specific reason—to extract the JPEG from your raw camera files.
Yeah, I know just output a JPEG from the processing software. However Iliah Borg, he of the best raw viewer ever made, “FastRawViewer” has produced a little utility to extract the JPEG preview,  the one that you see on the back of the camera when you review.
Can’t say its a ‘must have’ piece.  However from time to time for a quickie result….  The size of the file will be dependant on camera settings but even with raw only set in camera the JPEG will be full size and with a moderate compression.

Have a look here. RawPreviewExtractor  In Beta and it’s Free.

There is something spine-tingling to stand up close to a raptor.

Many will have had the experience at a zoo, or a wildlife refugee or sanctuary.  A few lucky foks may have been able to have the bird perch on their forearm. To gaze into those eyes and ponder the amazing  intellect behind them is truly bedazzling.

But in the wild, it’s quite different.  The birds are, by nature, true social distancers.
I’ve mentioned on the blog about several times when I’ve had a very close contact with a raptor.  Not an aggressive flypast (I’ve had a few of those too!), but a bird that comes into my territory. One year I photographed a Kestrel (search for Jane Austin’s character Elizabeth here to see some of those times). She would land in the grass where I was laying and hunt around my feet.  Amazing to see the feathers move as she breathed.
One of her daughters, the following year, would come and sit on the fence post next to me while other people moved about.   Now next to me is not over there a bit, but we shared the same fencepost. Kinda like a dog at heel.
She would sweep out to hunt, and if a walker, or vehicle or bike rider came down the path, she’d swing around and land within touching distance till they had moved on.  Hard not to talk to such a bird, and the occasional head-cock might have meant something. Or not. 🙂

We’ve also had quite a number of close connections with Black-shouldered Kites, but hardly ever with Hobbys.

You might know that most mornings, I leave home very early around sunup and walk my local river park.  I have a small pondage with a flat area, that I make part of my morning Tai Chi routine.

This morning as I settled in, I heard, in the distance, the cries of hunting Hobbys. Sharp, short and piercing.  Looking about, I finally spotted two small fast moving shapes about 500-600m along the creek.  They both took off toward the local football oval, and I lost sight, so continued with my routine.
Then, as they say, out of now-where, one came wing flicking along the riverline. Looking no doubt for dragonflies, or perhaps something a bit more substantial.  After making a lap or two, it turned, and dropped right down on the reeds and headed in my direction.  I had by this stage paused and was enthralled at watching this awesome aviator.
Then it turned even tighter and made its way toward the end of my ‘special place pool’—which is not much bigger than a couple of car spaces.

It suddenly dawned on me as I stood frozen to the spot, that the bird would come over the reeds about knee-height and directly toward me.  Amazingly, and I suspect it was planned, it flicked ever-so lightly just a metre or so in front of me, and passed by my right knee with little more than a handbreadth between the bird and I.
It was easy to look down and see all the feathers raked-in as it ran fast by me. It even turned its head at the last moment to acknowledge I was there. The other thing worth noting was it was silent in the air. No “Whoosh” as it powered by.

I stood bedazzled watching it climb out of the reeds behind me and continue along the upper creekline.  Then. a few definite wing flicks and it was gone.

Of course the camera was home safely in the cupboard. (The weather gurus had predicted rain).
Still I hunted through the photobase, to see what I had the would help bring the moment to life for you dear reader.















Saturday Evening Post #169: Anthropomorphism?

Been watching a Doco series on SBS about Walt Disney.
It is quite indepth and covers a lot of history I only had a nodding feel for.  Was he a hero or a despot, well, let’s not go there now.
What it did show was that he needed to make some movies that could bring in some dollars to pay the wages. And of course furnish his lavish lifesstyle, but let’s not go there either.
It seems he hit on an idea while on holiday in Alaska and shot lots of 16mm footage of seals on “Seal Island”.  Once back in the studio they plotted out a cartoon style drama.
Need a hero, or two, a dark-moody antagonist or two, a desperate situation that would require said hero to confront said enemy, and stress and strain of the battle.
So they hunted though the material.  Located sequences of ‘Our Baby Seal’, its “mother” the nasty shark or gull, and then worked the shots into a sequence and of course wrote the voice-over to match.  “Oh, look here our helpless baby is trying to climb over a rock”.  “Here  is another one climbing down from a similar rock.”  Hero does good as the two disparate sequences were spliced together and eventually they had the story of “Will the Mother seal make it back in time with the food or will the baby become an orphan and be abandoned by the colony”. Cut to shots of abandoned baby seals.
And so it went.  Insert David Attenbro voice here.
For sequences they didn’t have, they sent out a crew to reshoot.
Once back in the studio, it was all cut together to match the written story line of Hero Triumphs over Odds. (You have to read Joseph Campbell to see how these stories play out in so many cultures:-  “The Hero of A Thousand Faces” is a good start).
Now of course the cynic in me has always been suspect of the said Attenbro ’stories’, but it seems he didn’t invent the genre: another success for Disney. 🙂 Or maybe someone earlier?

The Disney Studios made half a dozen of these ‘docos’ and made enough to cover the wages so all was good. So next time you hear the Bro expounding some heart-rending formula, about Elephants, Zebras, Polar Bears or Sea Lions, you’ll know where it came from. 🙂

One part of the doco also recounted the making of “Bambi” and how a whole generation of small kids were scarred by the tension and drama of that movie.
As one of those from the scarred (and scared) generation, I can recall being in a picture theatre somewhere as a very small kid, trying to hide under the portable wooden chairs in the hall.  So it came as no surprise to me many years later when I took my own young girls and their little friends to see “ET” that we left the theatre with a bunch of tear-stricken children.

Such is the power of the Theatre of the Mind.

I often tell stories here on the blog of various encounters we have.  Hopefully—as the Channel 9 news so ambitiously claims, “News does not have an Agenda!”—the stories here tend to portray what happens and doesn’t embellish the reality just for the sake of, as Campbell writes, “A multitude of preliminary victories, unretainable ecstasies, and momentary glimpses of the wonderful land”.  (Hero of a Thousand Faces. p109 Fontana Press 1993)

This year we missed the Sacred Kingfishers nesting.  Such clever birds didn’t want to share with us a second year,  so here is one I prepared earlier.