Saturday Evening Post #125 : Simples

Front light is one of our most basic light forms.

Nicéphore Niépce used it for his first ‘heliograph’ made in 1826 or 27.  An 8 hour or more exposure taken through an upstairs window of his Burgundy estate.

Front light was the staple light of George Eastman’s Kodak. The small aperture and low sensitivity meant that bright light was indeed the order of the day.

The (in)Famous “Sunny Sixteen Rule” relies on bright sunshine—a couple of hours after sunup and before sundown— to give correct exposure.

I admit to still using a variation of the Sunny Sixteen, when I shoot in M for Manual on the D500. Normally I use ISO400, and f/5.6 on the 500mm PF with a shutter speed of 1/2500-for white birds 1/3200.  The good old Reciprocity Rule at work before your very eyes.

My dear old Mum’s favourite photo-adage, “Keep the sun over your left shoulder dear”, is just another variation on that theme.

Front Light in sunny daylight gives beginners several advantages:
The subject is evenly lit.
No heavy shadows to spoil the colours. The shadows fall away behind the subject.
Colours are rich and expressive.
Metering is easy, or just the Sunny 16.
The form and shape are lost in a flat looking surface.
A uplifting, bright mood is established.

And of course a couple of disadvantages:
Lack of Drama (most times)
Lack of form and shape because of the loss of shadows
Hard for subject not to squint as they peer toward the bright light.
Birds tend to look away for the same reason, and perhaps because it’s easier to see prey in the bird’s front light.

So on any given day in the field, my first choice is Mum’s Rule. But of course it depends on the mood I want.
Light coming from behind the subject robs us of rich colour and often detail.

So it is not without consequence that EE and I were out at the Western Treatment Plant on a sunny afternoon.

We found the Black Kite sitting conspicuously on a branch high on a tree near the roadway.
We slowed and stopped, the light was coming from behind the bird and the most we really could see was a shape in shadow.

I glanced in the rear view mirror and several cars were coming up behind us. We had stopped well off the road, so there was plenty of room to pass.  To my surprise, they too stopped, several cameras with people attached got out, some cameras stayed in the cars with the windows wound down.  A few shutter clicks, and quick ‘chimp’ at the results, and the vehicles moved on looking for something else to record.

I didn’t have to see the results to know they had a black, Black Kite. All shadow, no detail.
After the dust settled and with the bird still in good view, we moved up the roadway about 75m, and the Kite was now in “full front, sunlight”, dial in the sunny 16, and increase the shutter speed slightly to keep the highlights in the feathers, wait, wait, wait for a head turn, there is the eye catchlight. Click. Job done.

I know in the field, the excitement of seeing a bird is more than enough to make a record shot. I’ve got half a disk-drive full of them.  But getting the best colour, or mood or feel takes a few moment to consider the vision that I have of the results, and then making the necessary steps to work to achieve that.

Do I always use front light?  No, is the loud reply. But it is my light of choice if I am after those rich feather colours and details

Enjoy

 


PS: For Nikon Users Only. Canon and Sony users, move along-nothing to see here. 🙂
Over on ArtfromSience web site, Ed Dozier has an interesting test series on the Auto Focus on the D500, D850, D6.  His methods and conclusion bring some interesting thoughts to the accuracy and how to get the best out of it, of the Nikon AF system. Hope it helps.
Optimizing Autofocus Efficiency in Nikons

 

 

Eynesbury Gems: Take #3

Been pondering anew, my approach to Bird Photography, again.  Yes dear reader, tis that time of year again for tinsel, things red and white, muzak that dumbs the mind at the shopping centre and of course my annual “where is my photography going to bend in 2019”. But

Fear not, this is not that blog.
Great gasps of relaxation and sighs of relief heard across the ‘blogosphere’.

 

I really wanted to get the remainder of the shots from our Eynesbury excursions, (incursions?) out.

So rather than belabour, here is the best of the rest sort of feature.
There is still one more chapter to put up, but I’m going to do that as a Snapshots type blog as it concerns our favourite Jackys and their now well fledged young.  Might even get that done the next few days.

Here tis.

After about 20 attempts this is as good as it got. A Tree Martin flying in with food for the young. I think that Tree Martins have multiple families at nest inside the hollows.

 

A very young Black Kite. We sat with the young bird for several hours over three days, but didnot see the adults come to the nest.
However there was a constant overflying as they kept check on the young one for above.

 

Another from the Black Kite at Play series

 

Another from the Black Kite at Play series. It is coming out of a turn and heading into the wind using all the speed it gained on the run with the wind

 

Black-faced Cuckooshrike

 

Overenthusiastic young one just about unperches the adult. I love the look on the adutls face.

 

This looks like family fun, however food is involved and when the adult arrived to feed the lower bird, the upper one flew in. Then to get in a better position to be fed, it ‘stepped’ over its rival.
The adult sovled the problem by flying off the end of the branch, circling and landing nearer the lower bird. It’s not always the loudest and largest beak that gets filled.

 

Little Eagle. Eynesbury has a resident pair of Little Eagle. I suspect, from the calls, that there is a nest located on the western side of the forest, but have to say I’ve been out of luck locating it.

 

And of course Jacky Winter

Watching Jacky feed is quite interesting. The young don’t cry out for food. Most times they don’t even respond to Mum or Dad arriving. Then there must be a quiet call, and they quickly pop up, the food is delivered and they both settle straight down. It’s also not unusual for the adult to spend a few minutes alongside the nest making sure all is well before flying off.

 

A Band of Banded Brothers

Came upon a small band of Banded Stilts and Red-necked Avocets the other morning.

We had been looking for some locations for subjects for my book on “How to Sneak Up on a Swamp Harrier”. Needless to say the next chapter or two will for the short term be blank pages.

On one pond we happened in the best of traditions on a flock of Banded Stilts, and some companions.

So we settle down for about an hour or so.   While we were enjoying the birds, the sunshine and a cuppa, we were joined for a short while by a hunting party of Black Kite and a Black Falcon. We counted around 25 Black Kites and there were plenty spiralling down from a great height that we didn’t count any more.
Sort of added that sparkle to the day.

Enjoy

Passing time with inflight shots

We’ve been sitting in our mobile hide (the little i20), near a tree that has a Black-shouldered Kite nest and the female in residence.
As is typical of her species, the nest is just below tree top and hidden well in among the fine uppermost branches.  Once she is under the canopy she is gone!

He off course is on hunting duty, and every so often turns up with a nice fresh mouse.   So all we have to do is point the camera, (attached, I might add to the WImberley Gimbal head), and wait either for him to arrive and/or her to emerge or reenter.
Now, if you’ve ever watched them, the first thing you’ll recall is that it can be a long long long time inbetween feeds.

Sometimes even she gets a bit anxious and sends out some pretty interesting Kite calls just to make sure he gets the message.
So we wait.

And of course in the waiting is the challenge.   So we, well at least I, keep the shorter 300mm f4 PF on a second camera and practice my flight shots on anything that spins past.

So here are a few from the other day.

Rockin’ and Rollin’ in Raptor Alley

Just a quick look at any weather forecast over the past two weeks would draw the conclusion we’ve been having a spot of weather at the moment.  And you’d be right.  The mushy cloud days, the biting cold, the wind and the rain. And mostly the lack of Sunshine.

Its not much fun for a  photographer to venture out for small birds as the forest is wet and its hard to get much light in under the canopy.  Big field birds become grey blobs against even greyer backdrops.

So it was a bit unusual last Wednesday afternoon to see the sunshine sweeping along streets.   “Grab the cameras and let’s go to Twenty Nine Road”, EE suggested.

So we did.

Two of the major roads that run through the Western Treatment Plant complex,- and don’t require a permit-, are The Beach Road, and Twenty Nine Mile Roads.   They both have huge paddock areas that these days are no longer used for the original purpose (the disposal of the waste from Melbourne), and are now farmed over for a range of farm products.  (Not for human consumption).   One of the crops is maize and it is ready for harvest. I assume they use it to feed the stock cattle.

One of the benefits of all this production is off course that the mice see the left over and dropped seed and corn as an indication of bounty, and begin to multiply.  And as they do, the raptors, not likely to forego a mouse dinner move in to match the increase. Which of course helps the mice produce more, and more raptors move in. …. fill in the blanks.

On a sunny afternoon, its nice to be able sit along the roadway near the harvested paddocks and watch the various hunting techniques.   Kestrels and Black-shouldered Kites hovering.  Whistling Kites and Black Kites hunting from the air, Goshawks swooping through prepared for anything that moves, and of course the Kites being prepared to wrestle food from the smaller hunting falcons.  Add to that the pair of Black Falcons who believe any food is rightfully theirs and are prepared to out-fly anyone to get it, and a fine afternoon’s entertainment is assured.

So, rather than ramble here is a small selection from a few hours work.

Raptor Alley. The Beach Road looking toward the bay. The sharp eyed might even note a Black-shouldered Kite high on the rhs tree
Raptor Alley. The Beach Road looking toward the bay. The sharp eyed might even note a Black-shoudlered Kite high on the rhs tree
Delightful to watch them in the air
Delightful to watch them in the air
Australian Kestrel with an afternoon snack
Australian Kestrel with an afternoon snack
Taking a spell from hunting
Taking a spell from hunting
Another mouse down
Another mouse down
First time I've ever seen a Goshawk just sitting.
First time I’ve ever seen a Goshawk just sitting.
When I grow up I want a nest just like this. Superb Fairy-wren sitting in a disused Magpie Lark's nest
When I grow up I want a nest just like this.
Superb Fairy-wren sitting in a disused Magpie Lark’s nest
Pair of Black-shouldered Kites resting together
Pair of Black-shouldered Kites resting together
These are the bird of my youth, Sitting on a gate post
These are the bird of my youth, Sitting on a gate post
A hard turn into the breeze
A hard turn into the breeze
In bound for a tree rest
In bound for a tree rest
Australian Kestrel, tail preening in the sunshine
Australian Kestrel, tail preening in the sunshine
Black Kite landing. The post is an old sluice to control the waste.
Black Kite landing. The post is an old sluice to control the waste.
Fresh catch
Fresh catch
How tough is this mouse
How tough is this mouth
Female Australian Kestrel
Female Australian Kestrel
A late entry into the field Brolga at sundown
A late entry into the field Brolga at sundown

On a wing and a….

DJ's Birds as Poetry

As I needed to go do a medical thing near the Point Cook Coastal Park, the thought came up, that we could go photograph Flame Robins (astute reader that you are, you’ll have noted that the positive side of that is – not look for robins to photograph- Well noted)

As it turned out the sunshine came out and EE found an really interesting pair of Black Kites, interesting in that they were both ‘very’ interested in one another.  One, which we concluded to be the male, kept sweeping into the perching tree carrying things to ‘offer’.  She on the other hand kept encouraging him, and eventually they stopped to mate.  EE has those shots. (Of course).

We decided that little hard to get close to red robins, were no match for the the challenge of two eager Black Kites and walked around to a gateway, and entered the paddock…

View original post 394 more words

Just when I thought I’d seen it all

This Black Kite is such a confident aviator, that it can preen as it flies.

Bored from following a tractor in the field, it decided a little cleanup time was in order.

What staggers me is the amount of brain power going on to keep the right side up, going in the correct direction, finding the feathers in the breeze and figuring it all out ‘on the fly’.

The second shot – the headless one- shows if you look closely out from the top wing rhs a feather that has been discarded.
Definitely  don’t try this at home.

DWJ-1504-30-_DWJ6407 DWJ-1504-30-_DWJ6410

A feast of Raptors.

Been awhile since I’ve posted, but its been lack of good weather more than anything.
The area close to home, on the Werribee River Park, that I’ve taken to euphemistically calling ‘The Office”, has an amazing number of raptors, and I thought I’d introduce them and what they are up to.

On the roadway in, just over the Geelong Freeway, there is a fence line and a few old pines.  Here a pair of Black-shouldered Kites have just flown their two orange and cinnamon young. In the same tree line a pair of Black Kites appear to be setting up house, if not already at work on brooding.  Next tree or three down, is a pair of Brown Falcons. Not nesting yet, but certainly staking out their claim to the territory. Much to the anger of the Black-shouldered Kites.

Down the road a little just before the carpark off in the paddocks a second pair of Brown Falcons are at work on territorial rights.  Also regularly in the area a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles, although the moment, it probably  is just a convenient perching location.

At the carpark proper, a pair of Black-shouldered Kites and their recently fledged three teenagers.  Not more than a dozen trees down from them is a pair of Black Kites and  a nest that is work in progress. I’ve not checked up close, but there is either brooding or feeding going on.  The male seems quite adept at pursing a laden Black-shouldered Kite and getting it to release its mouse capture.

A pair of Brown Falcons are constantly in the trees just off the river cliffs line, and I’d be tempted to say its a likely spot for a nest.

Further out in the field and well away from my prying lens is a pair of Australian Kestrels, and again they are too early for nesting, but are certainly building good pair bonding.

Combine that with the regular visits by any number of Whistling Kites and the area is certainly busy.   A few days back an arrow shaped bird sped through the trees and caused quite a stir among the smaller birds and the one really good look suggested Peregrine Falcon, and I’ve seen one briefly on the fence line on the way in.

So here are a few of the birds at work.  The food in the area must be exceptional to support such a range of nesting and preparing birds.

Recently fledged pair. In training.
Recently fledged pair. In training.
One of two Brown Falcons that are using these trees in the river flats.
One of two Brown Falcons that are using these trees in the river flats.
Wedge-tailed Eagle, fences make good perches.
Wedge-tailed Eagle, fences make good perches.
The wind was much to strong for this trio to practice their hunting skills.
The wind was much to strong for this trio to practice their hunting skills.
The trio in the wind.
The trio in the wind.
Dad with a mouse, but he's waiting for a chance to deliver without losing it to the Black Kite
Dad with a mouse, but he’s waiting for a chance to deliver without losing it to the Black Kite
A Black Kite circling, hoping to take a mouse from a Black-shouldered Kites.
A Black Kite circling, hoping to take a mouse from a Black-shouldered Kites.
Brown Falcon, near a favourite perch.
Brown Falcon, near a favourite perch.
Territory is everything. This is a pass on a Brown Falcon to get it to move away from the fledglings.
Territory is everything. This is a pass on a Brown Falcon to get it to move away from the fledglings.
Posts make ideal perches when there are so few tall trees.
Posts make ideal perches when there are so few tall trees.
That fence again.
That fence again.