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.
“Scrassrckh”
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

Screen Shot 2020-02-06 at 11.08.02 am

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

Enjoy.

 

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. https://photopxl.com/happy-birthday-ditital-imaging/ 

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

DAH DAH!!!

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.
https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/19/21128404/adobe-photoshop-30-years-version-1

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.

Enjoy

 

 

s

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

 

Screen Shot 2020-02-06 at 11.08.02 am

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.

Enjoy

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.

Enjoy

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.
And
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.
Subject.
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.

Enjoy

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.