Saturday Evening Post #170 :Bedazzled

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

Enough to make the average Doona Hermit snuggle up.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Evening Post #169: Anthropomorphism?

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

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

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

Such is the power of the Theatre of the Mind.

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

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

Saturday Evening Post #168: Another Turn Around the Sun

Spilling over the horizon first thing in the morning, the sun makes its presence felt in the way that it send shadows scurrying, highlighting details and bringing tone and form to the previous dark shapes.

It also creates a variety of moods and colours as it marches its inevitable track to the other horizon, to then slip silently, but forcefully over the horizon and leave behind a soft mellow afterglow that drapes and melds over the landscape and our subjects.

Mid-morning to mid-afternoon provide sunlight that brings  qualities of contrast, detail, and colour.  On a cloudy day, the harsh shadows are suppressed bringing another mood into play.

Working with terns is one of those times where getting the light right is as much a challenge as filling the viewfinder with the bird.

When I first started bird-photography, the people I travelled with called id on what appeared to be two seperate species. “Whiskered Terns” and “Marsh Terns.” For many months, I ticked off both on my list thinking I was seeing two distinct species and not seeing, ‘whiskers’ on any of them, I wondered what I was missing.
One particular evening I spoke to my mentor at the time and asked how to tell the difference.  “Oh,” she replied,  “they are the same bird they just have had a name change and some of us oldies still refer to them as Marsh.
Defeated by nomenclature!

When it comes to working with these birds, my dear old Mum’s “Keep the Sun over your Left Shoulder, Dear” when using the family box-camera still holds good.  Thanks Mum.

Early morn, or late afternoon works well for me, as it gives angular light under the wings.  The only challenge to all that is the bird will have its wing in the wrong place and I’ll have the face in shadow. And as they change direction so quickly, it’s not always apparent until I get to view the shot as to how successful it was.

They also smack the water so fast that as I follow them down its hard to keep up with the sudden stop of the bird and keep panning down into just open water.
Missing the impact completely.

Like all thing photographic, some practice is the order of the day.
Meanwhile a pocketful of luck doesn’t hurt either.

As we begin our next trip around the sun, I hope that 2022 brings you some relief from the trauma of the past year and some excellent opportunities for fine images of our birds.

Saturday Evening Post #167: Togetherness

“You can do all sorts of things that are fiendishly clever, then fall in love with them because they’re fiendishly clever, while overlooking the fact that they take a great deal more work to obtain results that stupid people get in half the time. As someone who has created a lot of fiendishly clever but ultimately useless techniques in his day, I’d say this sounds like an example.”

Bruce Fraser

I published a similar photo on Flickr the other day, and of the same pair.

What is interesting is that they resting between remaking a nest and laying eggs.

Unless my calculations are off, this will be her ninth nesting in the past two years.  I think she changed mate, about 6 nests back. Perhaps they fell out, or perhaps he met with an accident.  The next male was probably a younger bird as he was much smaller than she, but over the past 18 months or so, he has bulked up and is now much better proportioned.
I think she is the largest across-the-chest Black-shouldered Kite we’ve worked with. When she stretches for take off it’s quite noticeable.

They are an interesting pair in that they have remained faithful to the little area that was once a main road, but now lies abandoned as the traffic rushes by on the new road about 500 metres away.  Yet the paddocks are essentially untouched and provide a ready source of food for these excellent hunters.

As Bruce Fraser pointed out, the basics just work.
Many will know of Bruce as the genius behind some very clever digital photography Sharpening techniques.  Adobe hired Bruce to work on the multi-pass sharpening techniques used in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). Unfortunately we lost Bruce long before he had a chance to complete  his work.
Those new to digital photography may not have heard of him, but each time they open Photoshop and work the Sharpening Slider, they are benefiting from Bruce’s dedication.

And his point remains valid.
A quick search of most hard drives will reveal megabytes of downloaded Photoshop actions or Presets to make this or that change. Sunset glows, or Mountain mists or Ancient-Bygone-Era feels.  Dark Moody Street, or the Glow of a New Bride.
We’ve downloaded them, paid for some of them, and after a few clicks, …. well it didn’t turn the proverbial sow’s ear into the prize winner we’d hoped for.

As the year draws to a close, I’ve been looking back at the few “Five Star” images in my library for this year, and wondering was the fiendishly clever technique worth all the effort.
Also beginning to spend a bit of time on some of the all time classic images from the world’s great photographers.   No no, not the one’s currently gleaning ‘Likes’ on Instagram.  But the truly great ones.

How about Frank Hurley’s famous “Endurance Trapped In Ice.”

or Imogene Cunningham  Portrait

Dorothea Lange, The Photographer of People

Eric Hosking, Heraldic barn owl

Or Dr. Julian Smith You Called Me Dog   and Micawber

But,  I’m sure you’ll have your own list.   What to put in, what to leave out.

I wonder what fiendishly clever technique I’ll fall in love with in 2022?

All the best for the season, hope that 2022 brings some cheer

 

 

 

Saturday Evening Post #166 :Immersed in Light

Last week I explored the magic of light.
In my early years, the local photographer handled everything from weddings, debs, insurance claims, business portraits and some commercial products.
They were all shot in studio.  With a few props that seemed to be included in the photo as mandatory.  A young lass could have the mirror, and sideboard in both her deb shots and then again in her wedding shots.  As the work was hand-coloured the wall was toned to match the necessary colour scheme needed for the client’s satisfaction.

I’ve written before of the new wedding photographer who stated up, not using studio, but rather outdoor environmental portrait setting.  It was a change that suited the era.  It set the bench mark and the old studio would eventually fade away.

Needless to say as a young photographer, the magic of working in the outdoors and following overseas styles I quickly accepted the use of light and outdoor settings and was constantly on the lookout for the right place to work.  Now I have to say that all this was before massive council restrictions, safety requirements and exorbitant insurance policies.

But light knows nothing of such things and still wraps me in its enchanting grasp.

So it’s not surprising as we were working with the young Hobbys the other day that the light through the watering of the gardens in the park should catch my attention.
Add to that the mystery of the shapes of the old ‘art in the park’ pieces and I was suddenly transported back so many years, and wishing I had at my disposal  a much shorter focal length lens.  The long lens just wouldn’t give me the angle of view that I might have explored.
Still.
The magic showed and I was drawn to press the shutter.

Light does that to me.

Saturday Evening Post #165: The Magic of Light

Light and Lighting has always fascinated me.

There is something primitive or primordial about sitting on the beach quietly watching the sun rise over the horizon. Some mornings it’s cold and misty, others warm and dusty. Sunsets have always posed a photo challenge that I’ve been ready to accept.
I once nearly fell of a bridge on to a railway line (as the train passed underneath, to add bonus points), just to get the right viewpoint of the sun setting behind a greater bridge—fortunately I had the sense of balance to save the long lens that I’d borrowed and instead of going over the railing, I managed to fall back on to the road behind.  No damage to the lens fortunately, and only a small dent in my pride.
Needess to say I didn’t make the image and contented myself with the safer option of photographing both bridge and sun separately and them combining the in a multi-slide montage. (This was way before the concept of digital photography was even dreamed of)

Over the centuries our theories of light have changed dramatically. Often shrouded in myth and legend, guess work and hypotheses, what light was and how it emanated.  Ibn al-Haytham in Arabia, around 950AD, to described the model of how light reflects from objects and it is recieved by the human eye.  At about the same time the Arab scientists invented the ‘pin-hole camera’.

Yet despite our basic understandings we tend to take light for granted.
However as photographers we need to do more than take it for granted. We have to perceive the many nuances of light.  More than just the rising and setting of the sun, the quality, the colour and the mood all play an important element of our work as photographers.

In all its incredible, complex and subtle variations.

Not only does it control shape, tone, texture, contrast and depth, it does, by its very gracing of our subject, add its own special Quality.

A quality that transcends the subject alone and has its own impact on the story-telling ability of the photograph.

Hard to describe in words, yet wonderful to behold when in a moment of sheer magic it happens.

That, I guess is what continues to fascinate me.
Studio controlled light has  its own special feel, as my early tutor said, “We keep on adding light until we’ve taken away all the shadow we need to.  Then we stop.”
Working outdoors, the universe sneaks up on me providing its own spectacular light-show. So much so that sometimes I’m so overawed that I forget to press the shutter.
A condition for which I’m confident there is no cure.  Each time brings its own magic

 

 

Saturday Evening Post #164 :Hide and Seek

We have, for the past few weeks been engaged in a game of Hide and Seek, with a pair of Sacred Kingfisher.

They come down along the Werribee River every year for the nesting season. It is not too hard to find a bird.  Their calls through the forest highlight the general direction.
They also tend to use the same branches as hunting perches.  So if we are prepared to sit in one location for a while, (translated into real time, anywhere between one or two hours), they are more than likely to turn up.

Being able to find where they might, will, or possibly could nest remains a bit of a game.  They make all the rules and it’s somewhat difficult to determine their intent.

So it’s not unusual to have seem them peeking into a hole in a tree here, being ejected from another by rather vocal, and aggressive Red-rumped Parrots who ‘own’ the nest. Harassed by Rainbow Lorikeets at another prospective hole, and chased by Willie Wagtails, just because they can.  And of course the WIllies have their own broods to protect.

However EE is not one to give up easily and at last, she is pretty sure she has found their location.  Of course nowhere near the areas we had been searching.
We found them working on a dead River Redgum.  A damaged section must be hollow on the inside and they had set about ‘drilling’ into the decayed branch.
It took several days before they had made sufficient headway as to have access to the inside of the trunk.

The two pictures are three days apart and the hard almost unyielding wood can be seen in the lefthand shot. However, they seem to have persisted and now have made an entrance into the chamber.  There are two holes they have been working on, and I’ve no idea which will be the chosen entrance.

TIme.  Will tell.

Saturday Evening Post #163 : Stoic by Nature

Spent an afternoon in a Grey Box forest recently.  Not often we get to spend time in a forest.  Yet, once upon a time, in a universe somewhere around the corner, this blog started keeping track of my visits to Woodlands Grey Box forest.
And most of the subjects of the time were bush birds.

However just on 8 years, (my, doesn’t time fly), we moved home to an area that is pretty much bereft of any sort of forest stand and is primarily open Basalt Plains Grasslands.

Gone are the small forest birds like Robins and in their place are numbers of small, but difficult to locate grass dwellers.
At the top of the food chain are the raptors—Kites and Falcons.

Most are nomadic at best, but usually Brown Falcon is local. Working a territory and not travelling too far to follow the food.  Being pretty catholic in diet, they have plenty to choose from in the grasslands.

That’s the thing about Browns.  Hot or Cold.  They are there.
The scorching 40 degree days of summer.  The high windy gale-force days.  The days of incessant, if not persistent rain. No matter what.
Brown sits and waits. It is their nature.

In some respects if we were to anthropomorphise, I’d be inclined to call them Stoic.
But as we don’t anthropomorphise, I won’t. 🙂

One of the tenets of Stoicism was (is?)”in accordance with nature.” Because of this:
the Stoics thought the best indication of an individual’s philosophy was not what a person said but how a person behaved. To live a good life, one had to understand the rules of the natural order since they thought everything was rooted in nature.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism

I am convinced that Browns really do understand the nature order around them.  To watch one slip off a branch, and head along the paddock as just a few cms over the ground, dodging branches, bushes and the like is to watch a bird that has ‘plotted’ the area.
The other day, as we were watching with Cassia, of Cinnamon, she suddenly picked up her skirts and moved to a tree about 50m away, but more out in the open. I said to Mr An and EE, but more likely I just said it out loud as commentary, “Brown Falcons, don’t just move from one tree to another for no purpose.  She has moved for her reason and no doubt it we wait a little bit it will become apparent.”  Don’t want to sound like a Falcon prophet or some-such,  but we waited.  Within 5 minutes the Male turned up with lunch.  The more open tree was the perfect place for a quick food exchange.
No doubt she had seen or heard him when he was a long way out and prepared herself to receive the delivery.

During nesting season, it is a little hard not to have sympathy with their main food source of the young.  Cassia, of Cinnamon and her mate, have a likeness for Pipits and Skylarks.  Both of which nest in the grasses on the ground, and must be, for a hovering Falcon, an easy mark. Or for a Falcon with an intimate knowledge fo the area as it scans from a post, or tree—although there are not too many trees on your average grasslands.

Brown’s are not noted for their amazing hovering ability, but given a good breeze, they can make a pretty fair fist of it. And so at present, he is bringing in for the three young fledglings, a pipit or skylark most deliveries.

For their part the hapless grass birds have two advantages.  One they outnumber the falcons.  And they are capable of several nestings a season, so once the urgency of the falcons passes the little birds should be fairly successful.

The falcons presumably will go back to hunting grasshoppers, crickets and the occasional snake.
The young will move off to find their own territories and the exhausted local pair will go back to sitting quietly, watching for the next convenient meal.

And the Pipits can resume sitting on the fence posts without fear.

=

Saturday Evening Post #162 : On the Wall

It’s  funny thing in someways.  We don’t have many photographs on the walls of our unit.  It is not that space is limited so much, as that we have chosen not to fill it up with photos.

All the family memories and moments are in carefully curated Photo-books that are the result of one of us having  flirted with the Scrapbooking era.

For our bird encounters I  produced numerous Photo Books, first using Apple’s remarkable, and never copied, Aperture photo management programme, and Apple’s Book publishing service, and of late using Blurb, both directly and via the connection with Adobe Lightroom.

But every-so often, I make an image that above all others of recent times really cries out to me for a print on the wall.

Such is the Brown Falcon header for this blog.

The bird, or course, is Cassia, of Cinnamon. She has left a perch some 200 m from her fledged young, (they are in the tree behind me) and is making her way over to—in a motherly way—check on the kids.  Well isolated from the trees in the background, the focus on the D500, attached and held for her flight across the paddock,  at about head (mine) height.

I’ve sat with this bird through, now, four nesting seasons, and while she is not that enamoured by my presence it is fair to say that I am no longer considered a threat, and her approach is not an attack, but rather the simplest way to move to her young.

The one thing I’ve noted this time, and I have to say, I’ve missed it before, is that she ‘talks’ to the young when up close.  It is a very quiet, but distinct, ‘cluck-cluck-cluck’ very soft and very ‘motherly.’ Much in the same we humans interact with our offspring.  Cooing and Mumma and Dadda are just a few examples.
What ever she is saying seems to be done in a very warm and if I can anthropomorphise, passioned way.
Brown Falcons are more noted for their raucous calling as they barrel across the sky. Easy to pick, even when they are a long way off.

So with all of that, it really struck  me that her ‘mother’ intentions are much more than at first might be thought of for a hard working raptor.
A time for me of enlightenment.
Worthy of a place on the wall.

Here tis.

Enjoy

 

And for extra points here is another one from a much closer viewpoint from that run across the field.

Saturday Evening Post #161 Surprised by the Ordinary

I have of recent days been ‘repairing’ some damage that I inflicted upon my photo library.

Now before we all spring to ‘backups’ and backup strategy, and ‘don’t leave home without it’, the backup actually eventually became part of the problem as it literally was a copy of the error in thinking I’d made some weeks earlier.

However all was not lost, as I had an off-site copy of the original files, so it was simply a matter of reclaiming them.  But then the work of getting them back into order, curated, and settled became the marathon journey.

Of course the good side of that was I have been forced to revisit the photos of 2019 and 2020, and relive some of the outings we had enjoyed in what seems post lockdown, so, so long ago.

Those that follow along on Flickr will have seen some of those being posted more regularly as they emerge from their cocoon on the master drive(s)

None more so than the time we spent with Cassia, of Cinnamon and her two young. So instead of a disaster, it has turned into a rather pleasing journey.

Sitting with a very relaxed Brown Falcon, reminded me of some words from Henry Thoreau.

The old naturalists were so sensitive and sympathetic to nature that they were not surprised by the ordinary events of life. It was an incessant miracle to them, and therefore gorgeous gorgons and flying dragons were not incredible to them. The greatest and saddest defect is not incredulity, but our habitual forgetfulness that our science is ignorance.
March 8, 1860 Journal Entry.

One of the amazing things with this bird was her lack of concern about my presence.
I could sit by one of the trees or perches she regularly used, and just wait until her arrival.  I am convinced they know where they are going to land before they leave the perch, and will follow a course that takes them to that spot. (Not necessarily directly). I  can’t recall her shying away because I was near the landing spot. So much so, that it was no longer incredible to me, more an endless miracle.

 

Saturday Evening Post #160: Walking the Walk

It is reported that J. R. R. Tolkein,  once said, “It is a dangerous business… going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept to.”

I wonder, like dog owners, am I taking  the camera for a walk, or is the camera taking me?
Some dog owners seem so detached from their dog as they walk about, I am convinced that the dog is indeed walking them.
Dogs seem to be easily distracted.  A smell here, a sight there, a movement over there. All needs to be carefully examined and if time permits to be explored.
No matter how long or short a lead, a dog will always run at the limit. (Locked down bird photographers are no different)

The problem, if it is indeed a problem, of walking with a camera is that I lose track not of where I am, so much, as to time and place.  A few minutes planned stroll becomes an hour or more in one location.

All sorts of shapes, and tones and picture possibilities hijack me and I am, as Chris Orwig says, “Swept away by it all” (Visual Poetry, p 208)

You can, as Elliott Erwitt once remarked, “You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organising them visually.”

Working with birds the ‘organising them visually’ is quite the challenge. Small birds flee, others chose to simper in the deepest of bushes, knowing that any attempt at a photograph is useless.  Larger birds sulk and turn away. It’s easy to develop the ‘Oh, if only I was…” attitude.

We have after nearly 18 months been given the freedom to move about again.  For some it’s a trip to the shopping mall, a coffee in a piazza, new shoes, a haircut, or a visit to an art gallery.  For most of us it’s time with family and friends who’ve been similarly isolated.

So as we begin to take our first tentative steps back out into the field, so many opportunities seem to present themselves.
To quote Elliott again, “It has little to do with the things you see, and everything to do with the way you see them.”

Time to step out and enjoy the sunshine, the rain, the wind and the wonderful things that will grace our lenses.

Enjoy

Saturday Evening Post #159:

I’ve spent the past couple of days mentoring a young, beginner bird photographer.

It’s funny, I think, if you ask someone what they do, you might get I am (was) a Chemist, or perhaps and Accountant, or Motor Mechanic, Banker, or School Teacher.
But
Say “I’m a Photographer’, and its well, kind of ho-hum, yeah, but what do (did) you do for a living.
Anyone  with a mobile fone can be ‘a photographer’.

I usually answer these days, “By (pause), Training and Background, (pause), I’m a Photographer.
Not Iphoneography in there to confuse.
Still, it does lead to some interesting side discussions.

Bruce Barnbaum in his book The Essence of Photography, tells the story of two art teachers.
The first looks at the stick figure drawings of a child and asks, “Oh is that your Mum, or Sister or is it You?”  A question bound to enhance the creative expression of the budding artist.
The other will ask, much more bluntly, “Is your family really green?” And there goes creativity.

I personally can speak loudly to that, as an art teacher, in my year 8, dismissed my attempt, at a subject, as it did not fit the template or paradigm she had set.  But, I still think it was creative.  However that was, as they say, the end of my budding art career. 🙂

One of my Tai Chi masters says of learning the various forms, “Art is always changing and growing. If not, its dead”  He is quite ‘hot’ on not just completing the form the same way, each time, but allowing room for personal expression.

I’ve said here before, get a bunch of photographers together and very soon the discussion will turn to “Whatchabeendoinlately?”

And it’s not just about what work/client or style.
It usually enters into the area of what new ideas have you been exploring.

In his book, The Art Spirit Robert Heri says, A tree growing out of the ground is as wonderful today as it ever was. It does not need to adopt new and startling methods”

Flowers it has been said, don’t get all bent out of shape, and go off to seek their personal freedom.  They don’t plan to move to another location for better opportunities or bewail the climate where they are growing. They simply get on with the task.

Which leads, me hopefully to the point of the moment with Cassia, of Cinnamon.
One of the challenges I often face is getting correct exposure for a light bird on a dark backdrop or a dark bird on a light background.   Or an inflight, where the bird moves from light to shadow and the poor old camera meter just can’t keep up.
One of the reasons I shoot such work with the camera in “M”anual. There are of course a number of ways to hold that exposure, but I’ve adopted the “M” method.

Yet working with my young friend, and not wishing to ask are his birds really green (or over or under exposed), we have been discussing and practicing ways to keep exposures under control.  You may laugh, but I’ve had him shooting Aperture priority, JPEG for the past few days. It offers less room for error, keeps him behind the camera and doesn’t wander into the fantasy of the ‘digital darkroom’.

Too much light. Make corrections.
Too little light.  Make corrections.

The next few weeks will find him reaching further into the crayon box and finding he can select a colour other than green. !

Cassia was waiting for the next food delivery.  Impatiently, if Falcons do such an emotion.  She flew from one perch in the open, to another in the shade. From front lighting to backlighting and all the way through.

As Bruce  says, “Its not about technical ideas and methods… nor about making images simply because you can with the tools and apps at your disposal… It’s about, because you love photography,  putting in the time and effort necessary. ”
(In Tai Chi we call that Kung-it refers to any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete)

 

Saturday Evening Post #158: Pair Bonding

I had most of this blog written last week, and was happy with the draft.

When my blog friend Eleanor mentioned on Flickr, a book by Gisela Kaplan called “Bird Bonds” I was very interested and found a copy on Amazon Aust.  I’ve several of Gisela’s books and find them full of both researched data, and also anecdotes of birds she has observed.
I often find myself sharing on this blog about anecdotes of our time in the field, and the various birds we work with, so I enjoy Gisela’s work.

Thanks to Amazon, the book arrived quickly during the week, and as EE said, “It’s the kind of book for an early to bed night in the cold of winter.” Plenty to read and ponder.

We all follow or enjoy birds for a variety of reasons.  None more important or sensible that another.  For some its the number of birds seen on a day out. For others a desire to see as many species as possible during a year.  For others the chance to find a vagrant or rare bird among hundreds on the beach. (a skill I have to say that has not even a shadow in my gene pool, all I only ever see are a large flock of birds).  For others, a chance to document the comings and goings in their particular ‘back yard’.  And of course for photographers the chance to get that one definitive image.

I have an acquaintance who used to have a folio or folder for each species.  There was only one photo in each.  If he managed a better shot, than the older one was replaced.   So a trip though his library of images would only have one of each.

I guess I don’t fall into any of those categories.  I take most of my birding ethos from Jon Young, and his book, “What the Robin Knows”, and as I’ve said before its about building links with just a few birds.  I tend not to chase numbers, or species or even wayward vagrants.
I’m much more the sit and work with just one bird or pair.

I sometimes get asked about the things I write both here and on Flickr about individual birds, and it comes from following a pair as often as we are able.  I find the enjoyment of watching the antics of a pair one of the most satisfying things I do.   Adam asked the other week, why I don’t show a lot of Rainbow Lorikeet pics and  I do have several reasons,  one is that others are always able to show some great photos of these cantankerous birds and their antics, and sometimes, I just get so involved in watching that I forget to photograph them. :-

Some of the most enjoyable times in the field  is with pairs, as they attend to one another, wrestle with setting up home, raising young and the busy-ness of being a bird.

We have followed this pair of Purple-crowned Lorikeets for at least three seasons.  This is from  the beginning of the season last year.  We missed the main event due to lockdown, and when we retuned the old branch of the tree had fallen, exposing their nest and so they abandoned that area.  Not sure if I’ve ben able to find where they have set up this year.
As the nest hole was low down on the tree, it was quite a delight to be able to get up close and personal. They were completely unperturbed by my  presence and that took the strain of them, and me, as we sort of settled in together without any stress.

No doubt as I get through Gisela’s book there will be some of her wisdom I can share on the blog.

With lockdown now lifted in our area, it will be interesting to ponder where we can travel, but wherever a lot of the time will be sitting and soaking up the wisdom that pairs have to share.

Saturday Evening Post #157 : Roll up, Roll up, the Circus is in Town

We have finally been able to break out of our 5km border restrictions.
Not big mind you, we only needed about 7km to get to The Office.
Along the River Park walking track the bush is alive, as they say to the sounds of parrots, lorikeets and smaller bush birds, including Wagtails, all busy either defending a nesting location or challenging for better accommodation.

None, it seems, more so, than the large number of Rainbow Lorikeets that have descended on the park area.  Over the years their numbers have grown to what can only be plague proportions.  Each hollow in every tree seems to be a Rainbow chosen location, much of course to the chagrin and detriment of the smaller birds that simply can’t compete with the noisy, brash and boisterous Rainbows.

But they do have some advantages for the photographer, besides their brilliant colour scheme.

As EE commented as we walked down the track with the calls of the Rainbows ringing through the trees, “They are  bit like a single bird circus, each one has its own act.” Perhaps its partly bravado, partly the need to show-off to their peers and partly to intimidate other species.  But there is no doubt that a pair can provide hours of entertainment, as they talk, preen and dance together.

We were a bit late for the opening of this bird’s performance.
Two options I think:

It had been holding on to the bark on the branch and it had given way under the weight and it had desperately grasped the bark above with its beak,

or

It was using the bark and the balancing act to impress its mate.

Either way, as it waved the bark about with its foot, was it trying to gain balance or simply attention.

Easily able to support its weight by the beak, it didn’t seem to be in any hurry to recover and rolled around for quite a long time.  In the end, dropping the bark, it did a ‘chin up’ grasped the bark near its beak with first one, then both legs and swung up onto the branch.

Hard to say, but the crowd threw popcorn and cheered at the performance. 🙂

You can tell we’ve been locked up too long when such simple things form such great amusement.

Enjoy