Saturday Evening Post #97: Learning to Isolate

Bettcha thought this was going to be about staying at home and virus stuff.


Someone once said, “Photography is the art of exclusion.”
Sometimes I’ve thought the viewfinder in the camera should have a little gilt-edged gold frame inside. So we can see what our masterpiece is going to look like enshrined forever on the wall
Because if nothing else, using a camera forces us to put our subject in the frame and exclude all else around, no matter how interesting it it might be.

And so I say to the viewer, “Look at this”, and they don’t get the option to see all the things I’ve left out. Unless of course it’s an handphone shot, with those atrocious wide-angle views. Then I get my feet in every shot. 🙂

I’ve quoted my great mentor, John Harris, a few times, when he’d look at a print or slide, and say, “You’ve got to look within the frame to see the picture that it contains. That is where the gold is.”

It’s a magic of pointing out the line, the light, or perhaps the movement that would otherwise have passed by and not be noticed, let alone photographed.

When it come to ‘seeing’, we are able to show not only what we see, but how we see it.  There is also another form of seeing.  I may close my eyes and say, “Oh, now I see.”

One thing I’ve noted from the lockdown is how much we are ‘story-telling’ people. I don’t mean making up some novella, but just day to day conversation.  Zoe, at my local coffee shop is Greek, her hubby is Irish. She was telling the other day of the ‘fun’ of organising that wedding to keep both sides placated. I had a friend who married an Indian lass, he, was Greek. Another amazing intertwining of cultures for the wedding organiser.  But we chatted back and forth (through our well adjusted surgical masks, -well hers was a handmade one) about the various aspects of the events. Building word pictures and picking up on each others view of the events.  We are story-telling people.

If nothing else for me, the camera has always been a tool of story telling. A tool, that opens, my eyes and the eyes of anyone who views my photos, of the wonders of this amazing planet. The astonishing creatures that we share it with.
The breathtaking sunsets, the wide open vistas, the ranges of mountains that roll on in increasingly rich blues into the distance.

As Bruce Cockburn, a Canadian song writer says,

I stand here dazzled with my heart in flames
at this world of wonders…
Red-gold ripple of the sun going down…
in this world of wonders.

I’ve noted, I fear, I’ve taken to becoming fascinated more by the gruelling events that we are living through. Shock it seems keeps me glued to the tv and the news blogs and podcasts.  The hard stories need to be told, some in the most graphic detail.  But, I’m not the one to tell them right now. I can close my eyes and say, “I see”.
To quote David Duchemin, “I know there is great beauty and wonder out there, all around us, and I’d rather live my life looking towards the light, then fearing the darkness.”

So I take my clumsy tools of light and time and try to bring my vision of the around and help others to share and experience new wonder.

To open our collective heart to the world.

Saturday Evening Post #95: Future Proofing

Over the years I worked with-or for- two organisations that had among their mission statements a reference to “Future Proofing”.
Every iteration of their product line or new product introduction carried a promise, (spoken or implied) of “Future Proofing”.
Somehow the businesses would be able to have sufficient flexibility that they would be able to handle any changes that come down the pipeline.

However, like wooden wagon wheels, both organisations have long since disappeared from the market place and their products are no longer available on the shelves.  So much for “Future Proofing”.

Actually as I look back over it there have been a long list of products that I’ve used that are no longer extant.
Who remembers WordStar. and using ^control key formatting. (Don’t all  put your  hands up!)
WordPefect anyone?  (I know that Corel still have a version, but do you know anyone using it?)
Ahh, Lotus 123 So long old friend. (I used to train Lotus 123, mind I’m not an accountant) And while we are are on spreading sheets, how about VisiCalc on the Mac?

Two more and we’re done.  Aldus PageMaker (not the Adobe version please). And its PC equivalent Ventura.   Ahh, the agony.
Yet at the time, Pagemaker in particular sold more macs in Universities than any other program.
Something quite interesting in using Aldo Manuzio and his friend Griffo, ( everybody should have a friend named “Griffo”, very, well ‘ Stralian maaate’.
Aldo had his own future proofing logo which meant “Make haste slowly”.


What brought all this trip down memory lane on?
Good question.

I’ve spent this week  working through the camera cupboard and looking at hardware I’m never going to use again.
The Nikon 1 system. And don’t think I didn’t put in some effort to make it work for us.  There are several blog pages on this site that tell the history of our association with the small camera and its beautiful lenses. But, it wasn’t Future Proof.

EE has taken delivery of a sparkling new iMac to replace the older Mac Mini that has served her well many years.  The Mini will go the way of wagon wheels as there is only so much bench space.

A bunch of small lenses, including a wide angle we used for car interiors, they are now in the last box before the door in the garage. Along with some flash units, and more coloured filters and paraphernalia of similar used-but no longer used-vintage and we’d all blush if I mentioned how many camera bags are now on the short list too.

Lockdown, has highlighted how “Future Proofing” is as fragile as fine dew on a leaf in the morning.

So no future predictions here. The Doona Hermit is taking just one day at a time.

I’ve also been a bit remiss of the past weeks for not publishing any bird related posts.  Usually have relied on reporting recent trips.  So I’ll take a wander through some of the older files and see if I can patch together some related images this coming week.

In the meantime Stay Safe, Stay Well and Stay Creative.

Besties to all my fellow lockdowns,

From the Global Headquarters of the Doona Hermit.


Saturday Evening Post #88 :Everybody needs One

We all need one, it’s a simple thing.

I know it’s just a play on words, but in light of last week’s procrastination blog, I thought we all needed a Round Tuit.

Here tis.

Here is the poem,

This is a round tuit. Guard it with your life!
Tuits are hard to come by, especially the round ones.
It will help you become a much more efficient worker.
For years you’ve heard people say “I’ll do that when I get a round tuit.”
So now that you have one, you can accomplish all those things you put aside until you got a Round Tuit.

Another of those clever sayings I recall as a young bloke, was,

Be A Lert.  Australia needs more Lerts.

Now you can get it on printed t-shirts.

I had sort of planned to do a couple of photoessay stories during the week, however  some family issues took precedent and EE and I also had to meet David Nice down at the Black-shouldered Kites.

So, the day simply filled out with things, a lert or tuit not withstanding.

I managed to find one of the young sitting under the tree canopy, but occasionally as the breeze blew a small shaft of light would cross over the bird’s body. The rest required I find the suitable background and wait for the bird, and the sunlight to align.

When you are a young Black-shouldered Kite, and waiting your turn for the next free handout, the wait can be quite a long time. I quickly grew tired of pointing the lens at the bird, and it wasn’t moving, and the sunlight still hadn’t moved sufficiently to break through the canopy.

Then in one of those universe moments I often refer to, the bird, the light and the photographer were all on tracks that intersected, and the job was done.

I’ve been reading of late, a book on Life Magazine—and will comment more when I’ve had a more thorough look, but I wanted to make this image in the style of Life.
So a trip into my favourite Black and White converter, Nik Silver EfexPro 2, opened up all sorts of possibilities.

I’m not a great fan of post production work, but have to say that I throw all that advice out the window in Silver EP.   So I spent a few minutes looking for the dark moody Life motif.  Then I added a touch of Selenium (always my favoured toner), to give the dark areas some depth.

Job done.

As a bonus, I’m including a link to my Lightroom Web page where there are a few shots from earlier in the day when one of the young was in a problem solving mode. Hope you find it interesting.

Use this link, Problem Solving
Oh, and I’ve added the original colour and then the mono version of this image as well.

If you double click on the thumbnails, it should open up as a slide show with some text explanation of what’s going on.


Saturday Evening Post #87 : The fine art of procastination

I was searching the web, as you do, t’other day, and Dear Old Uncle G. threw up a search find, that was just about irrelevant to my search.
However it did have a line of thought that intrigued me.

Mostly because it’s an affliction that I have been surrounded by for a few years now.

The point being, “Help, My Photos are being Held Ransom by computer software management programmes (programs).”

Like the bedraggled writer I too am overwhelmed by gigabytes of images, all sitting on a harddrive(s), on DVDs, USB Thumbdrives, and an assortment of other ‘storage’ devices that have scattered my photos landscape.

Yes, I hear people cry, but they are carefully catalogued, selected, and sorted into various albums, collections, folders and “Smart Albums”, so you’ll have no problem finding them.

True, I weakly reply.

But, none-the-less, they are not accessible all the time, I can’t recall ever getting excited about going over the 27,890 pictures in my 2015 Collection.  To be practical, I don’t even know what’s there.  They are held ransom by the very technology that is supposed to administer them. I can’t even hold them up to the light and search through them. Drives don’t work like that.

Oh, let’s create Slideshows, Photo Books, print them out, share them online,  and the like.

And that is where my other failing raises its ‘ugly’ head.
It’s easier to procrastinate,  and it’s not really an act of despair-more an act of rebellion.   I think I am beginning to Not Care, about the unseen photos in the March 2012 directory.

Because, as the writer points out, we need to spend the time to ‘Process’ them. It’s why we shot them in raw to begin with. And that is my failing. I don’t want to spend the time in front of the computer wading through those directories, just to find the “Nuggets of Gold” I’ve overlooked and will eventually get around to “Processing”. It’s enough to drive me back to shooting JPEG. 🙂
And just in case you are pondering a hopeless case, each year does indeed have an album of the Best of the Best for that year. Carefully culled from among the Dross to represent that year.

If I used Star Ratings, these would be my Number 5 Stars.
Probably also get a Colo(u)r label.
Certainly a Keyword (Best of Best) ?—which is how I do it—to be able to seperate them out.

But the rest? Hijacked. Not only held to ransom, but probably never to be thought of again.
I just won’t pay the ransom price of “Processing” them.

I have  boxes of slides that go back more than 50 years, and they too are going to suffer from never being seen again.

The reality is, that I think I’m more excited and interested in the pictures I’ve recently taken, and the ones that I’m going to take in the future.

Ramble Over.

We were out with the young kites on a cold, windless morning.  The sunlight was clear and bright.

First one, and then another of the young Black-shouldered Kites took to the air, and headed out over the open fields.
Swooping, diving, climbing, jinking left and right.
Reminded me of young lambs kicking up their heels.
I thought it must have been enjoying the freedom of flight and life as it flew across the paddock with backlight running through the mists coming from the warming grass, I couldn’t help but pause and enjoy the moment with it. Then the second one came out, and they sprinted up and down the verge on the freeway, looking like pups chasing vehicles.

The serious business of living a Black-shouldered Kite life put aside in the joy of the moment.

Here ’tis.


Saturday Evening Post #78 : Brightening up a Cold Dreary Day

I first met this bird and his good lady, while I was working the Backpaddock at Woodlands Historic Park.
In those days I’d often bump into a birding friend, Ray, somewhere along the track.
Ray had been walking the Woodlands area for quite a number of years and knew just about every honeyeater spot, robin territory, Brown Falcon feeding area, and eagle’s lair over the park. I used to think that a White-throated Treecreeper announced his presence in the area.
He graciously shared his wide knowledge of the park, and most of what I knew about the various robins at Woodlands was handed to me by Ray.

We would occasionally catch up at the gate entrance to the enclosed Backpaddock—this is in the days before it became the infamous “Bandicoot Hilton”— and its usefulness to the birds waned; what I learned from that is that is if you mess with one part of the ecology to satisfy one species, don’t be surprised if things go out of kilter elsewhere.

As we stood near the little map shelter talking, Mr. Mighty would come and sit on one of the close branches, and listen so it seemed, to our discussions.  He would turn his head, fly closer, walk along a branch to get nearer and occasionally add a cheery, “drrrt, drrrt, drrrt”, call to the conversation.

His territory extended from near the gateway some 50-60 metres into the open Grey Box forest beyond. It was not unusual to sit on a log in the area and within a few minutes Mr. Mighty would drop by for a visit. So over several good seasons I managed some interesting moments with him, and the good lady, and their offspring. It wasn’t unusual for her to build 3-5 nest sites and pretend to be working on them all, mostly I guess to kept predatory ravens, magpies and cuckoo-shrikes confused.
She would, however, lose several nestings to these relentless marauders. Perhaps as many as 5 clutches would be started, but only one or possibly two would be successful.

Those who go back to the days of Bird Observers and Conservation Australia, (BOCA) might remember seeing this shot as the penultimate cover of Bird Observer (Aug 2011, No. 870) the quarterly magazine of BOCA just before the merger to form BIrdLife Australia.

During the past week, I’ve been rebuilding my photo database and among other surprises managed to find a folio of Mr. Mighty.  Put a smile on my face.




Mr. Mighty
The little white facial cheek feather is the best id marker. (Apart from his confiding nature) When this was published, it was reversed,

Saturday Evening Post #72 :Joy

“Do your devotions make you happy?
Is your life a joyous song?”
Deng Ming-Dao

It’s an interesting thought for a creative photographer.  A simple fact really.  Do you enjoy it?

Does it make you happy? Sometimes, the pressures of conforming, the need to make images that meet certain standards, or the complexity of striving with a subject in the wrong light, the wrong place or the wrong time, means we struggle to make the photo with a feeling of joy.

Then for its own reasons, it can become a drudgery.

At other times, the light is right, the subject cooperative and a feeling of joy is replaced by celebration when you gaze at the LCD and there it is.  Just as you saw it.

A morning at Lake Lorne looking for Latham’s Snipe, could be just a drudgery, or it could be thrilling.

EE and I had made the trip out just after sunup, and had a chance to look through a number of areas where the birds might have been resting up.  Finding a Snipe is truly like finding the sixpence in the Christmas pud.   The trouble is finding them, and then getting close enough for a good shot.

I had been using the 500mm PF on the D500, but the speed of the little birds, the complexity of the background and the slowness of the operator, meant I was missing  many a shot. By mid-morn I changed back to the 300mm f/4.  Need to be closer, but the wider angle of view meant I could get the bird in frame quicker.

I saw the bird poke its head out of the thick grass, and had a fair idea of its location. Closer, pause, closer, pause.  No head poking out. Perhaps it scampered through the grass further away.
Airborne in front of me, raise camera press shutter, first one blurry, focus locks, nailed it.  Bird is away,  but its the closest I’ve been to one so far.
Time to sing a joyous song.


Werribee Wag-Tales: The Baker’s Dozen + Two

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EE and I were on our way down the Bellarine Peninsula for a spot of R&R, not sure what R&R meant in this decision, but rest and relaxation were never going to be high on the list.

On the way down we decided to visit a couple of places along the way and Fyansford Common was a good place for an early start.
Imagine if you will, our surprise when we spotted Mr An Onymous in the carpark.  How co-incidental.  And not long after, we were joined by others of the now, non-affiliated Former Werribee Wagtails.  Isn’t life just full of those serendipitous moments.

So, as a Non-group, we set off our our individual paths around the Common.
A Pied Currawong, a tree full  of Brown Thornbills, and some Red-browed Finches were a good start to the day.

EE and I then set off for Balyang Sanctuary on the Barwon River.  Ideal spot of a cup of the Earl’s finest. Again we were fortunate to find our birding friends had also decided on morning tea here, and Kathy’s sultana cakes provide by husband, Mark, were are welcome treat.
Balyang area proved to be quiet, (nearly wrote quite quiet, but on re-reading_), a few Australasian Darters, and various cormorants with young.  A  rather handsome Sulphur-crested Cockatoo was happy to pose for photographers and watched our meanderings with interest.

Then we drove on to Drysdale Railway Station for lunch, stopping, as usual at the Cinnabar Bakery and Pie Shop in Drysdale and a choice of fine pie delights.  Some might wonder if we go birding and stop for pies, or go for Pies and do the odd bit of birding while we’re out.   You, alone dear reader have all the evidence needed for a conviction.
So our non-group settled in around the steps and seats at the railway station, and enjoyed the some great food, I had the Plain Meatpie (traditionalist that I am), while others had a range of Chicken and Leek, Beef and Mushroom, and Curry.  Great pastry makes a great pie.

The main reason for EE and I to go to Lake Lorne, next to the station, is that it has a good reputation for Freckled Duck, Blue-billed Duck, and Latham’s Snipe.

We began to circumnavigate the lake,  and I dropped off the track into an area near the water’s edge, then with a sharp, “SCHHRAARKH”, the first Latham’s Snipe for the day, exploded out of the grassy edge of the lake, rocketed down about 300 metres and dropped into the edge of the grass.  It was easy to spot as it worked its way, feeding along the edge.
I moved 50m along the edge, and One, then Two, then Three more flushed.  Now it was getting serious.

An area that I’d had some success previously was bare of snipe, so Mr An and I moved further along the edge of the lake until we came to a jumble of branches that required careful negotiation.  Almost across the last one, and Wham!!! Four Snipe were in the air in front of us.  And we were off-balance, so only managed a couple of grab shots.  By the time I was stable of foot, they were across the lake.

We flushed another three and the total for the circuit was a creditable 15, not counting the ones we might have counted twice.
So Baker’s Dozen folk walking the lake, and two extra snipe—actually I’m reliably informed that there was only 12 of us out and about, but as I don’t count birds, I’m hardly likely to number people. 🙂
Especially those who just ‘happen’ to turn up to go pieing/birding with us.

A few fond farewells, and EE and I were off on the next part of the trip.  Gannets and Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, being our targets.

Wonderful day out with some great people, good birds, fine discussions and great food.  Werribee Wagtails Lives On



Click on photo for a larger size of each shot

Happy Birthday Photoshop

It seems that the 19th of February was the anniversary of the release of Adobe Photoshop 1.0.

Now a full 30 years old. And still going strong, unlike so many software programmes that hit the wall.
Now you may, or may not be a Photoshop fan.  You may be quite the Photoshop luddite, or you may even despise the very name, and would never inflict your harddrive with the hint of an installation.

But none the less, it is one of two programmes I’ve got an intimate working knowledge of, that turned both the photographic and graphic arts industries on their collective head.  Formally two entirely different streams, both bought together by several pieces of software that alterered for ever both streams.

If you really want to get some background on Photoshop, and John and Thomas Knoll and their industry contribution, may I suggest clicking over to Jeff Shewe’s blog. 

If you ask, “Who is Jeff Shewe?”, then its a fair bet that you’re a relatively new digital worker. Check out the link for the full story.
And for extra bonus, get to see Jeff do a quick video demo of


The first Adobe version of Photoshop the original, unvarnished, never to be repeated  Version 1.
And imagine how far we’ve come.

And here is a link to Photoshop’s very own John Knoll demoing version 1.07, Now you’ll know about Jennifer.

My own relationship goes back beyond Adobe’s ownership and involves a product called Barneyscanner.  For its time, (1989) this was a revolutionary 24 bit film scanner. (mostly transperancy). At first they didn’t have a real software solution, just large unmangable, (read unviewable) files.  John and Thomas struck a deal with their little Mac programme that not only could read the files, but actually make some modest adjustments.
By the time Tennis Australia’s Victoria Open was run in Jan 1991, scanning of film was still the major go to working pro tennis photographers.  Generally time frames were impossibly long, with processing and drum scanning and slow transmission, but with Barneyscan and the new Adobe version, time could be reduced significantly for shot to press time.
Co-incidentally that was also the first year that digital photofiles were transmitted directly to the newsdesk. All from a wonderous 1.3megapixel chip. Gasp!, Shock!, Horror! Amazement!

One of the biggest things about demos of Barneyscan and its software was, nobody was interested in the scanner, like, man, what is the programme you’re using and where can I get it???!!!!

Enjoy Jeff’s demo with Jennifer, its a not to be repeated moment.





Saturday Evening Post #69 : Awareness

Last week I started the essay about “Distraction”, and in one of the unique turns of events, was immediately distracted.

As Deng Ming-Dao writes,

“Today is the ideal moment between yesterday and tomorrow”

The observation seems so trite, yet if we could observe the simple, how much would we see.

more from Deng,

“Cat sits in the sun,
Dog sits on the grass,
Turtle sits on the rock,
Frog sits on the lily pad.”
Why aren’t people so smart? ”

He comments: When you next see a cat or a dog sitting still, and admire the naturalness of their actions think then of your own life. Don’t meditate because it’s part of your schedule, or a demand of some particular philosophy.  Rather Meditate because it is so Natural.

I finished last week’s blog bemoaning missed opportunities.  Indulge me if you will, but Brown Falcons don’t bemoan missed opportunities.

EE and I were making our way back toward the vehicle, and came to an opening in the forest, and there, just along a bit, in the open Brown was sitting. Again it took a while to get round past the bird and be able to position it against a leafy backdrop, rather than a porridge sky.

I positioned myself, you better believe it so I also had good views of the around.  I’m left-eyed dominant, and most DSLR designs are for right-eye dominant folk. That way you lucky people can look through the viewfinder and also use your left eye to check the surrounds.  My unused eye is buried behind the dials, knobs and buttons on the back of the camera, and I don’t have the luxury of staying intouch with the around.  It’s why I’d never make it as a army sniper, have to lean over the weapon to aim. Recoil plays havoc on the cheekbones. 🙂

I even spent years trying to train myself to use my right-eye, but all that did was induce vertigo. 🙂

Brown was obviously well fed, and not in a hurry to go anywhere, and didn’t perceive us as a threat.  Twenty minutes went by and neither of us moved. Deng’s thoughts were playing out. Meditation is not to be separated from life.

As it preended out the feathers, it eventually arrived at the tail, and it was possible to see its three new tail feathers and the two outside growing in.
It must have been pretty pleased with its new wardrobe, as it was a very slow, precise and gentle interlocking of the feather edges.


Werribee Wagtails: A Monthly Walk


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Werribee Wagtails existed as an active bird watching group in the western suburbs for 25 years or so. With the formation of BirdLife Australia, Wagtails merged to become BirdLife Werribee, and essentially continued to run business as usual.

Change is, as they say, inevitable, and many of the core of the group, found themselves at the Jawbone Reserve yesterday, co-incidentally, 😉 , looking for birds.

Surprise, Surprise!

So too, of course, were  members of the old group 😉
Perhaps it was a ‘re-birthing’ of Werribee Wagtails? Stranger things have happened.

So after the usual good natured greeting and discussion we all set off with the same intent, looking for birds.  And Jawbone didn’t disappoint.
Another surprise, or co-incidence, we all ended up at Newport Lakes for morning tea. And some of Cathy Buckby’s wonderful cake creation, thanks to Mark for just happening to be there with cake on supply. 😉

We walked the lake, finding the birds very quiet and furtive, so it was soon time for lunch. The merry chatter of (former?) Wagtails enjoying the day out resounded from under the picnic shelter.
Then on to the mouth of Kororoit Creek and Paisley Drain outflow among the fishermen’s huts. Should that be fisherperson’s ??
Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

Mr An Onymous, EE and I went on to Altona to have a coffee in the sunshine and watch the activities on the beach.

We might meet up again 😉

Catch you Along the Track.


Great Crested Grebe
Hoary-headed Grebe
Little Black Cormorant
Great Egret drops in with looking for a space
Pied Stilt Juvenile
Hardhead, Male
Black Swan Cygnet
Several of the Common Greenshanks near the creek causeway

Around the Plant

We’ve been busy on a number of projects of late—think EE’s Brown Falcon Nursery, wedding at the family acres among others. Also the weather has ranged from downright dreadful to terrifying. So, its not surprising that we haven’t been for a run down to the Western Treatment Plant since early November last year. Prior to that we’d managed three trips that had ended in washouts, and photos of terns dancing in the rain.

Yesterday, after lunch, EE, looked out the window, and said, “The sun’s shining, why not grab a picnic dinner and head to to the WTP for the evening.”

Which suited me, as I have been looking for an excuse to go visit the visiting White-winged Terns. (they used to be called White-winged Black Terns, but let’s not follow that winding track)

We went through the Paradise Road gate, and there in the tree to welcome us was “Elmer-be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting rabbit-Fudd”, the Brown Falcon.  He even gave us his signature welcoming gesture, the One-legged Stance.

A little further along and we found a couple of Black Kites.  They obviously had little to do, or simply no where to go and it looked for awhile that they were prepared to stare down our presence. We waited.  Hoping of course, that they would throw off the fence in our direction. But in the end, they slipped off the fence and away. Tail feathers sharp, but little other detail.

The roadway down to Lake Borrie had large numbers of White-fronted Chats and Golden-headed Cisticolas along the fences and the roadside greenery. Plenty of young and as EE remarked, “That is probably why we’ve not seen to many of them lately as they’ve been busy.”

We arrived at the area where the White-winged Terns normally hunt, but were disappointed that the ponds were quiet. Really quiet. Not even the usual Musk Duck flotillas or even Swamphens.  We’d have to look elsewhere.

We had anticipated sitting by the beach at one of the overflow outlets, but as the tide was on the way in, there would be little to see among the waders, and we took the hint, and headed down to the T Section area.

On the way, EE remarked that we could try the Austin Road area and see if the Brolga were in residence, but when we got there, again it was very quiet. And we moved on.
Just as we neared the T Section gate, “There,” she cried. And there indeed, as a pair of Brolga flew across the road in front of us. But the time I’d stopped IamGrey, and EE was out of the car, they were well gone. Never-the-less we backtracked and spotted them further inside the plant, so we drove down as close as was possible. Again we hoped they might fly, but rather they strolled over a hillock and were gone.

Back to the T Section.

As soon as we got inside the gate, the world changed and about 15 Glossy Ibis descended almost in front of us.  And I learned a valuable lesson about Autofocus on the D500.

I’d changed the Auto Limiter on the 500mm from limiting focus range to ‘full range’ for the previous Chat shots, and hadn’t changed it back. Meant the lens had a much longer focus travel, and combined with the TC 1.4 Converter I’d just been using for the Brolga, the lens refused to focus.  Add to that I’d dropped the ISO for tripod shots of the Brolga and hadn’t changed that back, I was working with impossible slow shutter speeds for inflight.
There go the Ibis. Sadly there goes the focus. 🙂

Quick to recover I am, so off comes the TC, ISO back to 400, shutter speed to 1/3200 and where are the ibis? They had landed reasonably close by, and it might have been possible to get them feeding, when they put a resting Swamp Harrier into the air, and they too took off in fright. Did a big circle around us, and the light, shutterspeed and focus are now working for me.  See who said bird photography was hard.

Our next challenge was flocks of hunting Whiskered Terns. Another misnamed, if ever there was one, bird. Used to be Marsh Tern, and I knew what they were. Why change to “Whiskered” as its no help to a beginner in id-ing the bird.  You’d expect to find a bird with some whiskery protuberances, right? Wrong!
They only show a white fine line on their face during a short period of breeding. Another winding track.:-)

Beaut light, beaut action, rolled out the deckchairs, pulled out the picnic basket, and a warm Earl of Grey, and we enjoyed a sumptuous repast in the the lovely evening sunshine and delighted at the unfolding entertainment of the Terns at work.

Nearly dropped me sandwich!
It was a White-winged Tern! They have a much faster wingbeat, not unlike a Black-shouldered Kite, so it was easy to pick among the languid hunting flaps of the Whiskered.  Managed a few frames, but the other terns didn’t take kindly to its presence and outnumbered it chose to move on.

And as I finished the last of the Earl’s good drop, across the bund, and over the water in front of us, a hunting Swamp Harrier came toward us. My fav side-light, rich evening glow, and the bird came past us, not deviating.  A fine way to end the evening.


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