Saturday Evening Post:#60 A touch of Black and White

Facing a blank sheet

is an artist’s terror
Deng Ming-Dao

It is a most interesting thought for those who try to find a medium of expression.

It’s not just an urge to create something, but to express something.
But what, and for each of us that answer is different.

One of the joys, rather than terrors of our art is finding that vision and then pursuing ways to bring to life for the enjoyment or the edification of others.

On his web, “The Online Photographer”, author Mike Johnson has been examining and critiquing where Black and White digital photography has been heading, and what are some of the challenges.

I had the good fortune, to work, at least for a short while,  with one of the great black and white printers of the 1970s. A critical time in the world of black and white imaging as the new kid on the block was the expanding colour print market.

Wedding albums were still hand-coloured.  Bridesmaids dresses where pastel shades, people had ‘blue’ eyes, and a good handcolourist was a prized asset to a studio.

As Mike points out in his article the difference between the work then, and a bulk of current digital b&w was a rich deep black, a stunning white, and a superb range of middle tones.
As Mike sees it, the mid tones are now a thing of the past, as we stretch our Tone Curve Sliders left and right to make, St Ansels “Soot and Chalk”. (A term coined by Ansel Adams for washed out results)

The Lab I worked in had the most wonderful Durst A600 4×5 inch enlarger and a range of Nikon and Rodagon Enlarging lenses. Optics that were indeed cutting edge, if there had been an edge to cut.
The philosophy of the lab was simple. The craftsman said, “If its not good enough to hang on my wall, its not good enough for my customer.”.
And a print was examined, and if not up to standard, it was reprinted.  And woe to the printer, if that happened the second time. Kept us on our toes.

Blacks were indeed, Black. Mid-tones sparkled, and whites, did infact hold detail.

Trip forward a number of years, and I no longer make black and white prints.  I look at the results from highend black and white printers (the machinery, not the operator), and in-spite of fantastic inks and amazing rag papers, I usually am confronted with soot and whitewash.
On screen results are no more encouraging.

Yet, truth be told, I still see in Monochrome a lot.

My fav way of getting there these days is via Nik Collection’s Silver Efex Pro.

I think the last image I shared here was of a Grey Butcherbird, and strangely here is another.
When I found this Butcherbird just recently, I thought, “Oh, how good you will look in monochrome”, and worked to get a respectable backdrop for it, and SExP did the rest.
I chose a film style of an old Ilford favourite Pan F and added a touch of Selenium tone to hold those wondrous mid tones.

Saturday Night Post #58 : The Joy of Light

Even at it’s best, photography is not an art, or a science, or a technical accomplishment. It’s not a new camera, or a new piece of software—”…that will bring out the hidden picture within…”, nor is it about clever application of ‘Artificial Intelligence’—’…harnessed to enhance your personal view…’.

It’s about Light. Sometime too much of it. Sometimes a lack.

As one of my mentors was oft to muse, “We don’t stuggle with the light, we keep working to illuminate the shadows, and when we get the balance of the shadows correct, – there is our subject.

My dear old Mum, (Well she wasn’t that old then!) introduced me to photography with the family Box Brownie camera.  A cumbersome black box, with an ‘always on viewing screen’ and no batteries.

Her ringing in my ears, one great piece of advice, as I stalked “Blackie”, our cat, on the lawn was.
“Keep the Sun over your left shoulder dear!”.
Such was this sagely advice, that for the next twenty years, give or take a few missing memory cards, was the way I dealt with sunny pictures outdoors.
You can probably imagine my suprise when I discoved that the sun over my right shoulder gave pretty much the same result.

And the answer is simple really. Photography is about light.

We’d had a morning couple of hours at the Werribee Mansion Gardens and Ornamental Lake.

The trees in blossom were such an attraction for all sorts of birds, and there against the blue sky was a group of Long-billed and Little Corellas making the most of the amazing golden offerings.

Sun over the shoulder, Sunny Sixteen rule for exposure-the good old Kodak Film Leaflet, white subject on blue.  The sunlight controlled the shadows, and kept others as mysterious blobs.
Dean Collins might have been ‘The Master of Light’, but my Mum knew a thing or two about it as well.


Saturday Evening Post #57: The Wonder of Flight

‘Tis true, we photograph birds for a range of reasons.
Technical, to study details
Recognition: to identify a new bird
Artistically: to give the bird a feeling in space and place
For the joy of it: Just being there and enjoying the time
And a whole host of others.

But it must be said, that when a bird we are watching opens its wings and takes to the air, our sense of wonder kicks in.
Down through the centuries, mankind has looked, watched studied and envied birds.

We can study aeronautics, and ornithology, grasp the technicalities of lift and drag, and the hundreds of other calculations that even the tiniest sparrow makes every moment, be able to talk of feather detail, muscle application and any other important flight theory, yet, on  what seems to me, to be a mere whim, that tiny sparrow flies effortlessly from my fence top!

In his book on raptors of Australia, Dr David Hollands says, “Wind! It affects every part of the bird’s lives. They live on plains that are by nature windy. They are hatched in wind, they are reared in the wind. They hunt in the most open and windy places…”

Watching small birds like Red-necked Stints, its hard to grasp how 40gm can fly 10,000 km on a return journey. How a hummingbird can navigate the length of the Americas, or a  godwit can fly Alaska to New Zealand, 12,000km without stopping, or a Latham’s (Japanese) Snipe can make the journey from the north of Japan to Northern Australia in just over three (3) days.

If I watch a small honeyeater plying its trade among the leaves, it is hard to gain an understanding of the mechanics involved.  A blur of wings and the tiny creature is across the paddock.  A fledged blackbird whirs away in my backyard, and eventually makes it up on to the top of a small rose bush. It’s all too quick.

I am it has to be said, quite guilty of feeding chips to passing seagulls. They not only accept the human condition, but can work a breeze to adeptly take a chip thrown in any direction.  They simply hang in the air.

When it comes to watching flight in action, the bigger birds are a fine choice because everything happens just that little bit slower, and a little bit larger making it easier to see the skills in action.

The 747 or Starlifters of the fleet have a much slower wing beat and its possible to detect some of the many functions going on.

A Wedge-tailed Eagle being pursed by  flotilla of aggrieved ravens and magpies, simply turns on its wings and uses very little energy as it swings from one updraft to another.  The pursuers on the other hand are working flat out to keep up, and eventually, energy expended, they must plummet back down exhausted. The eagle simply extends a fingertip feather and glides away on the next change of breeze.

Black Kites have the ability to make use of the slightest breeze and work it without a wing flap.  They seem to be able to follow a tractor across a paddock always at the tractor speed, and turn round at the end of the run and begin again. They seem to have a wonderful flexible tail that some times acts as a rudder, some as an oar, and other times as a sail. Flicking and twisting it as needed to keep station.

Pelicans, ungainly on land, and not much better on the water, seem to be able to carry that enormous body through the air with scarcely a check of instructions.

But, and we are getting to it all now young Skywalker, But, my hands-down favourite aeronaut is the Black Swan.
No rapid wing beats, a huge pay load and they enjoy water-skiing too.

We were out looking for an elusive Great Crested Grebe.
The Jawbone park area has many fine ponds that the swans use as a refuge to rest between feedings.

And they waft in along the narrow ponds making inflight relatively easy.  Pick up a swan in the viewfinder, wait, press the shutter, rinse and repeat.

What I find most fascinating is all the work going on as they check their speed from a fast high approach, set the landing point, adjust the wings, use the body and neck as an air-brake, hang out the paddles, line it all up, and then slide onto the water, sometimes one-legged skiing, sometimes two.

One of the reasons I keep going out, and ‘Swans’ is a major Keyword in my database.

I found this quote which says it all.

“…wings flap joyously With the pinion and plumage of love” Job 39:15


Saturday Evening Post #53 : Looking at Cathedrals

One of my current mentors referred me to this quote from Sinclair Lewis an American novelist (among other things)

He who has seen one cathedral ten times has seen something;
he who has seen ten cathedrals once has seen but little;
and he who has spent half an hour in each of a hundred cathedrals has seen nothing at all.

Sinclair Lewis

And here we are One Year into Saturday Evening Posts, the humble scrawling and image sharing attempts by Birds as Poetry to add to the web chatter/clatter. 🙂

53 weekly editions that  has been a bit of a diversion from the usual birds only, and has looked at a lot of my philosophy for photography and birds in general.

So perhaps there should be streamers and bubbly and party favours all round, but I guess I’m just happy to have achieved the goal I set out with back in October last year.

I was going to do a year in review sort of thing, but decided you as my loyal reader had probably endured enough.

It is interesting to me that the more EE and I  go to one location and follow the lives of the birds there, the more we come away with new insights into the activities of the birds in that area. Sinclair may well have been right.

Heathdale Glen Orden  Wetlands is about 10 minutes from home, but its an area that I only visit but rarely.  It is surrounded on almost all sides by housing development and the small wetlands is really a water retaining basin for the runoff water.  But it  has one great advantage.  Once the ponds become full, the water flows out over the surrounding flat land and creates, at least for a short time, a wonderful rich, muddy, food source for many wading birds and ducks.
A visiting clan of Latham’s Snipe.

Each time I visit I learn a little something.
My goal is to find the birds either feeding or sitting, but given their proclivity to explode out of the grasses, I think I  have a lot to learn.

None the less, I managed the other day to get a few that were coming into land in the grasses.   Unhelpfully they were landing against the light, but as that is one of my favourite lighting sets for “Drama and Excitement”, I wasn’t all that disappointed.

Thanks for your support the past 12 months, or 53 editions.  Hopefully I can make it happen for the next year.

Report from the Field: Many Years Ago.

I’ve hummed and hahhed about posting this. This blog does not do product reports or endorsements. I figure there are enough and more of those already.

So what follows is simply where I am in my journey of post processing software investigations.

Also if your  a “Bokeh” fanatic, believing that the world does not begin until f/1.8, then click away now, as there is nothing here for you.

For the record, I have a fairly large investment in software by NIk. I purchased stand alones of their Noise and Sharpening products years ago. And I’ve updated them regularly. They are my main go to until recently.

I’ve also been a fan of a number of the Topaz add ons (plugins) for Photoshop. I’m not too much of a preset sort of person, so my Topaz products have been mostly image enhancement.
Recently got a ‘free’ upgrade to the latest Topaz Studio product.(more of that some other time over a glass of chaddy I think).  And because of that, looked at their AI Sharpen. (AI in that name meaning ‘Artificial Intellegence’, but that would be marketing hype.
Anyway to cut to the chase, I am quite impressed by the results.
But, and I stress but.  This is not a recommendation to rush out and buy, to download, or to use.  Its simply what I’ve found works for me.
Just in case someone asks, here is their site. Topaz Labs

Which leads me to the point of the post late mid-week.
Many years ago.

In 1976, a magazine, Photo Techniques was launched, and it co-incided with what was to be a major change in career direction for me. Mike Johnson was the editor, and one of the main writers was a character named Ctein. (Let’s get it right: pronounced, ku-tine as in fine)
He wrote all sorts of articles on getting the best possible quality from photochemical prints. He knowlege was legendary, his practical hands-on experience was at the time without peer. If Ctein said it, it was right.
As the digital age took off all around us and ‘Giclee’ prints became the selling point, Ctein lead us all to “Yellow Brick Road” leading to print perfection. And without a loyal dog Toto to be seen.

Eventually- many years later, the magazine folded, but Mike Johnson now runs a web page called The Online Photographer TOP
See page here.
Or direct to the blog here

His biting humour and keen eye now graces an almost daily dose of Mike. Ctein continued to publish on Mikes TOP

I’d been busy of late and hadn’t checked, but when I looked today I found an article by Ctein, published back in September, 23 to be precise.
Topaz AI Sharpen.

Here tis.
Even if you don’t have/want/use/dislike/hate with a passion/or are ambivilant if you want a reasonably argued case for the way digital image processing is going to progress in the future, its a good starting point.
Also interesting to see the tangents and other discussion about ‘sharpness’ that have kicked off on TOP because of the article.  You’ve still got it Ctein. 🙂

And just for completion, here is a comparison pair

On the left is the original NEF image. On the right the result of running it through Topaz AI Sharpen. Showing at 200% in Lightroom

For the technically ept.  Nikon D500, 500mm f/5.6 PF and a TC 1.4 Converter. NEF processed by Adobe Camera Raw
Nuff Said.


Saturday Evening Post #50: Feeling the Magic

David DuChemin asked a very important question the other day.
“Do you remember the first time you saw the magic?”

Now for some of us, photography is simply a tool, a necessity, or perhaps a passing phase, or maybe even a distraction from other things.
Some of us use the images particularly us birders, as references, id help, or simply to record our observations.
The technique, the art, the technical challenges are of so little importance as to not be bothered with.
Others, sad to say, I think, use it as a chance to vent on various photo blogs, fb/insta pages on the newest-latest-greatest,-worstest hardware/software that is  is bugging them at the moment. Next month of course, it will be something different. As the ad for a betting app proclaims, ‘Even the permanently offended can use it”

The magic, dear David D., never happens!

Add to that the latest iteration of that amazing must-have piece of technology, the ‘smart phone’, and all the wonders of the AI inspired software, and its plain to see that like slide projectors, and Kodachrome disappearing off the horizon, great changes to the photographic landscape are in the wind.

I once did a presentation at a major photo convention, titled “Riding the Wind of Changing Technologies”. Short version, I addressed the changes that was about to sweep silver halide technologies away like a tsunami and the directions that the digital age might take. Regrettably the discussions afterward were all about the error of my ways, and not about how the new tech could be used to advance our art.
Time as they say, does tell.

Now the Luddite in me {Luddite: Luddites feared that the time spent learning the skills of their craft would go to waste, as machines would replace their role in the industry} might throw up its hands in horror, but the truth is that each change in the technology does not destroy our art. It simply allows it to grow.
In tai chi, one of the old masters wrote against simply doing the same moves over and over again without change. “It is the change that brings depth to the art, otherwise it will die.”

And that as they say, “is the thing”.

Photographs touch us deeply. They allow us to express more than just, ‘oh, I saw this’ they allow us to show how we feel about the subject.

And that is the magic. The ability to allow others to experience what we saw. I’d venture to postulate that the tools we use for that are no where near as important as the passion of the photographer to bring powerful images that create experiences in our emotions and imaginations that we will never forget.

I enjoy looking at photos trying to see not only the image, but the photographer behind. To me that is the magic.

Grey Goshawk (White morph)


Saturday Evening Post #48 Studio Werkz: The Moment

I usually reserve “Studio Werkz” for bird portraits.  Photos where I’ve been able to spend some time with the bird, try a few different backdrops, and have a few options on lighting, and also find ways to bring out the character of the subject.

Sometimes it might mean several trips back to the area, and spending the time to allow the bird to accept my presence.

Long term readers will recall the “Studio Werkz” story  of a couple of years, ago, and I associate it with making the very best environmental portraits that I can achieve.

Little backstory to bring everyone else up-to-date.

One of my first pro photo opportunities was with a long established studio. Wedding groups were very much ‘traditional’, as befits the market, and always done in a long studio, suitably decored, or interior decorated, or setup to enable full length portraits, bride by a mirror, and seated formals.
Actually if you looked at the deb photos, the business shots and the kiddie shots, and the prize-winning dog shots, you’d probably have noted a similarity in both decor and ‘style’.

Till, the new studio on the block opened up, and were doing, ‘gasp’ environmental wedding groups in the local park. -Hope it rains on them!!! 😦

Slick of marketing, and low on photoskills, they did, it seem, dominate the business very quickly.

Which is what led me to a lifetime study of outdoor environmental portraits. A trip or two through the workshops of people like Dean Collins, and Don Nibblink, set a style that I’ve always honed to improve.

Which is where Studio Werkz was born. Several young hungry photographers with great ideas and little cash. I don’t think we got beyond the first planning session. And went our seperate ways. One to work for a multi-national, another to do band photography before it was popular, another to free-lance for local magazines, and yet another to roam around the world and never be seen or heard of again. And me.

Which is why, if you are still reading—And well done if you are—Studio Werkz is my nod to those bygone days of outdoor portraits. Nuff said.

I was just this week, working on the various AF settings on the D500 camera, trying to work out the best one to ‘instantly’ grab Snipe in flight.

Sitting in the backyard, trying out each setting and seeing which were fast, slow, or unpredictable.
When on a sudden, a New Holland Honeyeater landed on the fence metres from me.
Good chance to try my technique eh?

So  point camera near bird, press shutter, hope that I pick up focus… and when mirror flopped back down, the fence was empty.

Oh, well, missed a chance thought I.

Tai Chi pigeon came down and was much more co-operative, and I discovered the subtleties of the AF system.

When I later downloaded the images, I was taken aback, by the one and only New Holland Honeyeater shot of the day.

Good enough for Studio Werkz, I declared.
Portraits need to bring out not only the best expression, but also allow us to explore the character. And there in one frozen frame, with 3/4 side light on the whirring bits, was a New Holland Honeyeater.


Saturday Evening Post #47 :Priestly Hue of Dawn

Lavendar roses,
Incarnate fragrance,
Priestly hue of dawn,
Spirit unfolding.

Deng Ming-Dao

The thermometer said, 0.2C.
It was a still, cold, dark, morning, pre-dawn, as I pulled on my walking boots, tucked my scarf around my neck and set out for my morning walk in the muted darkness.
A tiny sliver of a crescent moon hung in the early morning sky, a new moon was but a day away.
I like to walk in the pre-dawn.  The crispness, the unbroken day, the offering of so much to look forward to as the sun shakes itself loose from the horizon.

I don’t normally carry a camera in the morning, truth is I’d just rather enjoy the moments as they come.  There is a blackbird at the moment who sits on a tv antenna and sings. I wish I could understand his song, but no doubt he has lots to tell his neighbours.

Two magpies yoddle at me from their perch above a street light. Soon they’ll be hunting on the wet grass below.

Deng says, that even on the road to hell, flowers make you smile. 🙂 You cannot, he says, force them to submit to your will.
I feel the same about light.

I reach the turn-around point of my walk. At the moment, it happens that sunrise is about that same time, so I walk out in the part darkness, and return as the light begins to play its magic over the shapes, form, tones, colour and patterns of the landscape.

It was so cold, that not only was there a frost, but a wonderful emphemeral mist rising from the river.
And so I stopped.  Took out the ubiquitous phone, and wrestled with a composition over the chain wire fence at the river weir.  Its been many months since water ran over the top, but the rains of the past couple of weeks have given the river a new lease of life, and as the water cascaded over the edge small clouds of mist added their own character to the moment.

As Deng says,

We should take the time to appreciate beauty in the midst of temporatily.

Until next time.


Saturday Evening Post #45: Risk Assessment

I saw a warning sign on the tool chest in the back of an RACV Roadside vehicle the other day.

Warning before beginning work have you made a Risk Assessment.

Good advice I thought for someone working on car repairs on the side of the road with cars, buses and trucks speeding by, each driver totally self-obsessed in their own world of radio, wifi, facebook and family troubles.

Good advice, I thought too for your average photographer at work on the beach. 🙂

We had spent the morning, in the sunshine—let it be said, around Point Cook. We had arrived at low tide, and around this area the tide recedes in some places out as much as 100 m or more exposing lots of interesting little rock pools and seagrass beds and rocks that mark the edge of the shallows.

Normally terns, cormorants and gulls are the usual suspects.  And occassionally when the wind is right, strong winds coming inshore, Australasian Gannets that patrol up and down, just out of camera reach.
However on this day, with a strong off-shore wind, the gannets were working along the area just out beyond the farthest exposed rocks. I don’t know for sure, but hazard a guess they were going down to around the Werribee River mouth, turning north and the gliding past us, about midway to their turn around somewhere near Altona, at the Kororoit Creek outlet or Jawbone Park.  Just a guess.  About a 15 min and 10 min turn around time.

So after watching several passes and buckling on the TC1.4 Televerter for a bit of extra gain, I pondered, I could walk along the dry sand/mud, step on a few stones and be close to the action.

That would work.

So I set out. Ever alert as a big wave might squash my plans, or perhaps the tide would turn and maroon me out on the dwindling dry ground around the rocks.
As I stepped over one puddle to another, it was apparent that the tide was indeed turning, as the little riverlets of water were heading in to fill the pools near the beach.  Risk Assessment time.

I ventured on to the far rocks and waited 10 minutes and of course the gannets didn’t turn up on time. Look behind me, ok, dry land all the way. Wait.
10 more minutes and the first gannets begin patrolling down toward me. Still a bit too far out for great results.  They disappear up the bay. Wait.

15 minutes later, and a look behind indicates that I’m running out of time. And the birds appear.  Remember that TC? Well at 700mm focal length, the closest bird overwhelmed the frame.  Quickly take off TC, balance on rock, hope not to drop expensive optical devices on the rock or worse into the salt water. Risk Assessment zero!

Another 10 minutes and the birds are patrolling again. Not as close as the first pass, but I’m running out of options.
Look behind. Water is beginning to fill in some of the lower pools and its all a few minutes from joining together and wet feet slog home.  Risk Assessment.
Retire now to survive for another day.

Australasian Gannets are interesting in Port Philip Bay.  They roost on several of the navigational structures around the bay and on a man-made island called, “Pope’s Eye” near Queenscliffe.
Some reseach, indicates that the birds that fly up and down the coast line on the western side are primarily males.  In other areas it’s pretty much a 60% female, 40% male mix.

I also discovered the link to a web cam on Pope’s Eye.

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in a gannet colony, and you wanted to avoid getting wet, travelling to Portland, and the smell, then this is well worth the few minutes to view. Solar powered it only functions in good weather.
It cycles a pre-recording if the live feed is off.  Bet you can’t wait for tomorrow.

Here it is.


And here is the quick Fly By.


Saturday Evening Post: #44 Peace

The white dove occurs in the legends and stories of many cultures as a symbol of peace.

Over the past several weeks, a number of family, friends, acquaintances and their families have had to deal with a range of challenging circumstances.

Details aren’t necessary, but a moment to pause and reflect and to reach out is.

In times of emotional or physical hardship, it’s easy to feel hopeless so for all people who are struggling with life-altering challenge.


May healing and peace come on swift wings.

Saturday Evening Post #43: Don’t Look Away

We had located a bird, not a ‘lifer’, but one that we see so infrequently.

Problem number one, was, it was ensconced in a old dead bush. Probably a melaleuca or a prickly wattle.  And there the bird was, happy in its quite secure ‘fortress’.

Take a shot or two, just for the record. Walk about a bit, nope, no clear shot that side either.
Bird flys.

Hey, it’s out in the open with a rolling hill behind for a soft backdrop.  Hmmm bird photography is so easy.  Approach, secure a nice frame. Now to wait for a lift off for wing details.
The light goes. Deep clouds gather and the shutter speed drops. Deceivingly low.
Oh, of course the Vibration Reduction, (IS or VR), will take up the slack. But, that is never the case.

Maybe crank up the ISO. Well there goes the feather detail.
So I wait, slowing shutter speed, dwindling light, and hoping the bird will fly.  Watching.  Watching.

Light goes to porridge. Shutter speed splutters to a slow crawl.

Time to make some adjustments.

As I pulled the camera down to :
(A) Reset the ISO up a stop,
(B) bring the shutter speed up a half stop.

The bird, without warning dropped of the perch and to the frantic warning cries of honeyeaters and thornbills took off along the treeline.

I’d not even rotated the dial yet.

I’ve quoted Ming Thein before, but just in case you missed it.

From Ming Thein

“If you are waiting for something to happen to get a shot, you must be hyper vigilant at all times until you can no longer stand it or have your concentration broken for you: because the minute you turn away, decide to take a pee, sneeze, or pack up for the day…what you’ve been waiting for will happen”

Wise words Ming.

There is so much to be said for having confidence in the camera and the setting I’m using.  Not needing to think, “Oh, I’ll try this or that, or perhaps do this.” I rarely chimp, most I’ll do is check that the exposure is close to where I want it.  If its a touch on the light side when I glance at the LCD then I’m happy.  Any changes are what the sliders in the photo app are for.

For the same reason, I don’t use auto ISO. I just can’t predict where the shutter speed will go.  (Aperture is always the one variable I don’t vary)

Yet, I got in the mail the other day another mail about another ‘Artificial Intelligence” (AI) software that will turn my images into
“Stunning views of your subject”.  Yep, I was stunned.

Can’t imagine how AI is going to be there at just the right moment when the bird unfurls the sails and floats away.

I waited for this Black-shouldered Kite.  No changes of settings.
Just waited.
And eventually, it looked, and lifted off.
Who said Bird Photography was hard.

From the EXIF 1/3200 @f/5.6 ISO 400. Yep, that’s what I’d have expected

Saturday Evening Post #42 “I’m Not a Lifesaver”

No doubt you will have seen as the credits in a magazine, newpaper or book for Photo by AFP.

AFP is a noted news service that goes all the way back to 1835. AFP are the initials for “Agence France-Presse”.

They currently have over 400 photographers-photojournalists at work on stories in war zones, policitcal events, and just about everything in between that is newsworthy.

One of their photographers has recently come to my attention.

His name is Aris Messinis, a Greek photographer.

The image that has created my interest in his work, and his life, and his compassion, was  a photo taken in March 2017 in Iraq, in Mosul, at the time of the ‘libertation’ of the township from the oppression of Islamic State, (ISIS).  I don’t have access to the image, and below is a quick copy from a magazine in an iPad display.  I don’t normally put other photographers work on this blog, but none the less, to explain it would be much to difficult. And I can’t locate a reference site to give it full credit.  The copyright is the work of Aris Messisnis.  His work is worth more than a second glance.

What caught me with the power of the image, built around the smoke, dust and haze behind the couple, that cover, yet hints at the destruction. While the glace behind is both protective and fearful.  The touch of the family belongings in the single yellow plastic bag holds both their possessions and the centre of their life away from the misery behind.

In October 2015 on the Island of Lesbos (Lesvos), he covered the story of refugees making the prerilous crossing of the Mediterranean looking for a new start to life.

During this assigment, Aris crossed a line that many of his peers feel must never be broken. He put down his camera and helped the people he was sent to photograph. Several photos of him helping children, and babies to safety through the surf surely testify to his involement as more than just a observer of the human condition.  He called out his fellow photographers for not helping a boat that had capsised and plunged its overloaded passengers into the water, “You could take all the pictures you needed, and then lent a hand to help. Why didn’t you?’

The response.  “I’m a photographer, not a lifeguard.”

This is a photo by Petros Tsakmakis. The photo is not one of those ‘set’ for the moment, Aris carried a number of children that day. Petros took quite a number of Aris carrying in young children

Here is a link to a full story by Aris.

Please be aware, that there are, as they say on the tele news, “Some quite confronting images on the site”.


Aris says, “I respect the need to be objective, but in our personal time, when we are not working, we are human.”


Thank God he was human.

Photos shared on the site are the work of Aris Messinis and Petros Tsakmakis. I acknowledge the copyright to be theirs or their associated companies.


Saturday Evening Post: #39 Decisive Moment

Photography is one of those great expressive mediums that, unlike, say, painting, words, sculpture or dance, to name a few, relies on the moment. At the press of the shutter, the motif is set.  An author can rework a sentence, paragraph, chapter or even a complete manuscript.  Painters leave in, or add in necessary parts of the subject to provide just the right story.

Famed street photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson,  —HCB—(he was much more than that), coined a term “The Decisive Moment”.  Often quoted in photo blogs, books, magazines and the like, (including this one it seems),  yet rarely understood in the context with which he gave it life.

Here’s a good working definition:

“The decisive moment refers to capturing an event that is ephemeral and spontaneous, where the image represents the essence of the event itself.”

As Captain Barbosa in “Pirates of the Caribbean” says, ” There be lots of long words in there, and we’re naught but humble pirates.”

Reams have been written, and great theses developed to explain what HCB might or might not have meant.
He also said, “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.”

and then this, “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”

That sounds more like my bird photography in the field.

It’s been quite awhile, since we’ve been able to find, let alone work with Eastern Yellow Robins, but EE’s perseverance hung out again this past week, and we managed a few minutes in the You Yangs with an active feeding bird.
After several relocations and changes in light, I was getting a feel to the actions of the bird.

And because of the morning light getting a reasonable balance of fore and background from the hard light was a challenge. Find bird in viewfinder, move about for best background.

Then it landed on a single upright branch. After several shots against dark and light backdrops I settled on the light on dark approach, and the bird turned into the lighter side.  I waited.  And then almost imperceptibly, the ‘significance of an event’ occurred as the bird bobbed as it lined up the next meal, and then slid of the perch.
Nailed it.






Saturday Evening Post :29 “Salty”

Meet “Salty”.
I don’t know if that its real name, but an old sea dog deserves a distinguished name.

EE and I were at the Werribee South beach photographing Pelicans.  Hmm, there is a post somewhere back there about the adventure.

I turned round ‘seaward’, to see a bloke, and his kayak and his dog, paddling along the water’s edge. Salty had a front row seat on the kayak.

Not sure if I’m more impressed by Salty’s excitement about being on the sea, or the owner’s clever solution for holding the plastic bucket on top of the kayak.

Took me back to me childhood of messing about in boats on the mighty Murray River. Among some of our summer fun as growing lads was a small skiff which plied the river from dawn to dark, and carried home our catch for the day.  Sometimes it was a pirate ship, sometimes a mighty naval vessel, and sometimes it, just like us kids, ‘went exploring’.  And always in the company of one or two of the family dogs.
One particular dog, I’ve talked about here before. “Puppy, or Dog’, depending on who was talking, and what were the circumstance, was a Blue-Heeler cross Fox Terrier, with a snippet of whippet thrown in for good measure.

Like Salty, Dog would sit up in the bow, or sometimes hang off the stern fascinated by the rippling water passing by. So it was a little bit nostalgic for me to watch the delight and exuberance of Salty as they sailed by.

They returned an hour or so later, and I saw them disembark on the pier about 500m from where I was standing.  Salty, jumped onto the pier, a few quick shakes, and look around, it then trotted off the pier in search of new adventures.

I love to see dogs without collars and tags,—I’m an anarchist, or perhaps a iconoclast when it comes to having to id my ‘stuff’. I’m not against the registering of animals etc, just the need for them to carry such id as a sign of being ‘owned’ by some human type person. Dog was never owned, it shared its life with us, and in return we shared with it. She didn’t need a ‘tag’ to know she was part of our family. And for all those who have had such relationships, you know no-one can break that bond.

So sail on Salty, may the kayak take you on many an adventure, “yo, ho ho, it’s a pirates life for me!”