Saturday Evening Post #117 : Feeling the Magic (part 1)

Got a note from David DeChemin the other day.

He asks the best questions.
“Do you remember the first time you looked at a photograph and you saw how powerful they can be?”

“The thrill when you felt something and maybe couldn’t explain it.”

Well, I can’t recall the first photo I ever saw that had that stopping experience. I can, and I’ve mentioned it here before, recall the the moment I walked into a newsagents and there on the front counter display was Steve McCurry’s green-eyed “Afghan Girl”  on the cover of National Geographic. An image that has probably moved many people.

Likewise, Gene Smith’s “Tomoko in her bath”. I chose Paul Neil’s website version as he too talks about the impact of the photo on his photography. He also explains how the image has been withdrawn at the family’s request.

My list is a bit longer but the one image set that I think drove home to me how powerful photography can be as a story telling medium, occurred quite early in my ‘career’.

A noteworthy event happened in the country town I grew up in.  Many no doubt will have visited the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement. (It was I think one of the very first of its genre in Victoria.)

The feature of the Settlement was to be the Paddle Steamer Gem.
Best ref I can find is a Pintrest series by the Pioneer Settlement. (No, sadly my pics are not there. 😦   )

As a very young photographer, I followed it for most of the day on its last journey as it was towed by the PS Oscar W.

Home I went, processed the film (It was a 120 roll shot with a Super Baldax camera), made some prints and my Dad helped to paste them on a board, which he took to work the following day.  Because of the interest of the moment, comments of course flowed.  And while memory is fading, I think I made a few prints to give to his work colleagues.
But what impressed me is, as David D says, “Photographs can touch us deeply. They can create experiences in our emotions and imaginations that we never forget.”

There is much said today about the best, “new camera, new lens, new software, new plugin”, and I fear that it is always going to be that way ,  while the art and craft of photography’s magic is put to the side while pursing the greatest, current, soon to be swept aside fashion- the next quick fix.

I’ve enjoyed the magic over so many years, and it still gives me goosebumps when an image  reveals, not just what I saw, but the way I saw it.

The Black-shouldered Kite was sitting quietly in the early morning light.  I could see the richness of the mist behind, the pearly mellowness that brings the subject’s character into a new view.  Took me awhile to manage to get the Lr sliders and effects working for me, but it was worth it to say, “this is the way I saw it.”

Saturday Evening Post #116: Constancy

Clear sunlight on falling snow: fire and ice.
Bareboned trees stark to the horizon
Cold marshes, haven to ducks and geese.
A Falcon sits motionless on the post.
Deng Ming-Dao

He then writes that wherever we are, the constant change of life and the cycle of the seasons in upon us. We notice the ongoing rhythms of life.

Trees that spring to life after rain, or a change of season, ducks that know the time to breed.
All tings change, while all things move constantly.

The world he says is like one gigantic turning wheel.

I was nearly going to title this “Ready for another year’s journey around the Sun”.

But, then a friend sent me the following, I hope you find humours, gif

and given the harrowing journey we have taken with the virus and the attempts to control it, the sad growth of staggering numbers in other countries plus the local lockdowns to limit it in our various states and now add to that the tumultuous events of insurrection in the Washington DC, the 7 day trial has not been all that inspiring.

As it happens, EE has a T-shirt with the words, “Please Unsubscribe Me from Your Issues”  She wore it a time of uncertainty and upheaval, where group ‘membership’ defined people. And that time passed.

Chronicles of a Blogaholic has a most passionate post on the attempt to start the Second Civil War in the US, it’s a wide ranging thought provoking piece.  Coup d’état

When I was a mere broth of a photographer one of my mentors was ‘hot’ on Chiaroscuro— or light and dark.
Not just for the effect, but also as the method of carrying the story.
Cycle through more years than I care to write about, and the challenge of working in this fine light with this wonderful bird against that backdrop gave me some great memories.

One of the benefits of such light, apart from the challenge of exposure is the beautiful way the subject stands from the chaos behind.

Stand boldly young Falcon

Saturday Evening Post #115 Going Out, Not Knowing

Came across a Quote for the Day, today that used a Christian Holy Bible verse.

“…he went out, not knowing whither he went…”, The Letter to the Hebrews (Gotta love that King Jim English)-see ps below.
Tells the story of a dude in Mesopotamia that went out one morning and, well, just kept going.

Intrigued me, as I use a highly stylised version of Tolkien’s Aragorn poem,
“Not all those who wander are lost;” as a blog byline.

Seems to me  that no matter how well I can plan a day out with the birds, in the end so many times I don’t know what I am going to find.
Tolkien, “A light from the shadows shall spring”

Truth be told, there is a bit of the thrill of the chase. An acceptance that I am being invited into the lives of fascinating creatures.  The only thing I can be sure of is that the birds will have their lives to live and my small investigative muse- Lyric Poetry?- will have to welcome what is on offer.

Occasionally on the track armed with camera and gear a passerby will ask, (usually innocently)  “What are you doing?’ or more pointedly, “So, what are you photographing?” I’ve mentioned some of my usual responses before, but, really the answer is, “I’m waiting to see what the birds are doing!”
How else do you explain a sense of wonder?

So I bustle through the morning necessaries, getting ready to ‘Go out, not knowing wither I go!”, expectantly looking forward to a new opportunity  that is bigger than my vision of the world, and so much more exciting.

I trust that 2021 brings the most exciting visual opportunities to your lens.

PS: The original story in the Hebrew text says in the rather lyrical, “Lech Lecha”—can be roughly translated as “Go out to Yourself” as in an “internal odessey”

Now you know the extent of my  ancient text knowledge 😉

Saturday Evening Post #114: Understated Elegance

Perhaps one of the greatest skills for a ‘portrait’ photographer is to ‘connect’ with the subject.

Some people I’ve met seem to have a natural aptitude for bringing out unique character traits of their subject.  A smile, nod, hand movement, a word or two, and suddenly there waiting for the press of the shutter is the ‘essence’ of the person’s personality.

There are so many reasons why people often (always!) say, “Oh, I don’t take a very good picture!”  Too true.
We want to have a candid photo approach, but we don’t want a candid result.

Yousuf Karsh, a Canadian portraitist from the 1930s to when he retired in 1992, was a refugee from Armenia. He apprenticed to first his uncle and then a prominent American celebrity photographer.

His photographs of the great and near great of his time include, what is regarded as the quintessential portrait of Sir Winston Churchill. The story of the making of the portrait is as great as the moment recorded.
Churchill, it is told, turned up at the photo session with his signature cigar.  Just as Karsh was about to make the exposure he walked up toChurchill and removed the cigar from his hand.
The result shows a ‘miffed’ Churchill, yet one that brings out the essence of the subject.

Different time, different subject, different circumstances.
Martin Luther King,
King’s life can only be described as frenetic. Always on the move, always surrounded by helpers, people congratulating him, or commiserating.  The famous portrait was made a quiet corner of a church. The simple setting enabled Karsh to bring out the qualities of leadership, visionary and engaging personality.

Another that is quite confrontational, and given the subject, so it should be is Fidel Castro.  Frame filling, piecing eyes and wisps of shadow glancing over the facial planes make a compelling image.

See more his portrait work here.
If you do visit this site, be sure to click on the Sittings page, and type in the name of one of the studies. Then  click on image and it will open up to a little of the background to the portrait. Fascinating.

Here are a few Karsh quotes.

Within every man and woman a secret is hidden, and as a photographer it is my task to reveal it if I can. The revelation, if it comes at all, will come in a small fraction of a second with an unconscious gesture, a gleam of the eye, a brief lifting of the mask that all humans wear to conceal their innermost selves from the world. In that fleeting interval of opportunity the photographer must act or lose his prize.

I try to photograph people’s spirits and thoughts. As to the soul-taking by the photographer, I don’t feel I take away, but rather that the sitter and I give to each other. It becomes an act of mutual participation.

Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

And just because we’ll allow him a sense of humour,
The trouble with photographing beautiful women is that you never get into the dark room until after they’ve gone.

I’m often quoted—or misquoted—for wanting to bring out the character of the birds that we meet.
Some birds can be cooperative and its possible to spend sometime making sure things like, lighting, background, pose and the like are helpful. Others, are fleeting and gone.

If nothing else Karsh’s work hints at the need for outdoor photographers to adapt the camera to the subject. We don’t have the luxury of the formal studio portrait.

Yet that mobility enables us to be flexible and capture natural moments.

Bronson is a hard working Dad. We have had the good fortune to work with him through three clutches, and our presence is no longer seen as a threat.

I do therefore, take some liberties with his patience. But always out of respect.

No  photo is worth agitating a bird.

I am, I guess I need to add, quite a critic of my own close approaches, and like to think I have over the years become attuned to a wing flip, leg move, head shake or downright glare that indicates I’ve crossed a line.  Apologetic I retreat.

He sat in the soft early light, and the thought of “Elegance” struck me.  I then worked about to find a suitable background.  The small tree behind gave me an isolation for the head, and the branch gave him a feeling of place.
Waiting is something a Black-shouldered Kite is gifted with. I too needed to wait for the head turn, the piercing eyes surveying the field and the relaxed body.

Any relationship between this shot and Karsh’s “Grey Owl“, is purely coincidental, and no comparison is intended or suggested.


Saturday Evening Post #113: With Gratitude

Simple Post—With Gratitude.
When I was very much a young bloke, I was a member of a speaking club.  Mostly a social thing as I recall, and of course, a few business contacts never went astray.

One of the points that I recall from all that is the reviewer saying over and over.
“Make sure that you state the purpose of your message up front, early and clearly. So no one has to ponder what or where you are going. No one wants to listen for twenty minutes and then finally discover what the topic, and your point of view actually is”.  He probably didn’t end with a verb, but hey…

Magazine editors make the same demand of feature writers. If the lead is buried 5 paragraphs down, its either rewritten, or returned.

And So I find myself as we approach the end of the year, scarcely able to grasp where we have come this year, not only  physically and emotionally, but photographically.

And it lead me so far to be Grateful that I’m even here to write about it.

I’m also grateful to everyone who has kindly ‘Liked’ the blog, and to those special people who’ve taken a few moments to add their thoughts on the subject.
Me writing a blog does not make me the expert, and really it only exists if people take the time to read, and view the photos. Thanks to your all.

My gratitude to all those on the front line who have stressed and strained under the most dreadful conditions to keep us safe. What else can we say. Thank you.

To the coffee dudes in the local coffee shops who’ve struggled to keep their businesses afloat, to provide food and also a social meeting point that has helped to relieve some stresses.  Thanks.  And thanks to my plastic card that has tapped and gone so many times on cups of coffee to go.

Thanks also to the lockdown, yes I mean that.  As its given me the chance to sort out my runaway photo library. Now a svelte shadow of its former bulging self, I think I am confident the dross has been discarded.

And to the software manufacturers who have plied me with ways to “Bring out the Picture within my Photo.” with their special sauces and blends of technology. At least this year I’ve been able to play with them, and actually laid out money for one.

Thanks to EE, Mr An Onymous, Dave T David N, Len T, Chris L and so many others whom I have had the pleasure of sharing the bush, and the birds and their special patches.  It’s been a thrill each time.

And thanks to the birds. Without them ….asPoetry wouldn’t be as exciting to work on.

The Australian Hobby here is the female of a nesting pair.  She has just been delivered a meal for her young. Time to prepare it and feed her growing brood.

The eternal struggle to maintain the species goes on. Ohh ending on a preposition.(Be grateful I ended)

Saturday Evening Post #112: Staying Fresh

Been a bit of a review time this past week.

Among other things I came across a few blog posts that resonated with me at different levels.

One is from a local blogger. George Handel,  No not THAT one. 🙂 George and his family have been recording their walks, bike rides and explorations of places in our local area. (mostly).
I think one of the things the Corona lockdown did was to give us an opportunity to explore local parks and places that we probably would normally overlook. George takes us on a fine little visual journey through some of their family favourite locations.
The other thing the lockdown has given us is an appreciation for things local, and the chance to explore them.
It often concerns me that as birders, or photographers we travel for many hours to get to a spot, and on the way blindly pass by many other worthwhile locations that would no doubt yield many great sightings and photographs.
And finally George times many of their visits around Pie Shops.  No point in being out and about if you can’t find a decent pie, I always think.

Another came to me via a newsletter.  William Beem, talked about the sequels, using many movies as examples.
Star Wars, Lethal Weapon, Pirates of the Caribbean and Terminator, just to mention a few.
His point being if you strike an emotion with an audience visually, they want to you to keep doing it over and over again.

Which leads to the point, that sooner or later, there is no growth, and each shot is made to achieve the same emotional appeal, and your vision becomes stale and stunted.  Writers I think, call it “Writer’s Block”.

Does it happen to bird photographers. Absolutely, your current scribe stand as evidence for the prosecution.

But, we also have the seasons on our side as birds, and their behaviour changes across the seasons. Which I think makes it exciting to be out and about at any time. Hopefully that keeps us fresh.

Another interesting analogy came from Ken Rockwell,(Yep, the blog everyone loves to hate), where he was talking of complaints on the internet about camera colour rendition, and of colour perception.
He likened it to everyone’s ability to talk forever about how pianos are made, but for ordinary players the subtle variations of a concert piano are eclipsed by their own limitations of playing. To a Master the subtle variations are everything.

Reminded me of a scene from the movie “The Blues Brothers”. The band goes to Ray’s Music Store to pick up some instruments.
The keyboard player complains about the feel of a keyboard, trying to beat the price down.
Ray, the owner, steps out from behind the counter and proceeds to the keyboard, (Ray, is in fact Ray Charles, for those who haven’t watched the movie 99 times))

Ray sits down and belts out one of his famous numbers. Concluding that there is nothing wrong with the keyboard, and it might well be the lack of talent of the keyboarder.

As Ken finishes off, “Art its not the duplication of reality: art is the expression of imagination.”

Saturday Evening Post #111: The Almost Portfolio-Revisted

Or perhaps the subtitle, “The Ones that Never Quite Made It”.

Was revisiting a blog by Spencer Cox who wrote earlier in the year about the photos that didn’t quite make it into the portfolio.
The ones taken at the same time, same location, same subject. The one you share and are happy to show around.


The ones that never have a life beyond the hard-drive.

Now Spencer, to be told, shoots mainly landscape, architectural and portraits.  So on location, he is likely to make a few variations of the same subject.

For those of us who are working mostly with wildlife, and here on the blog with birds in particular, it’s not very often that we get out-takes that are so similar that we mull for hours over the choice of which one to use.
We either have it, or it’s a missed opportunity.

Sure, I can shoot a ‘bird on a stick’, and blast off 20 frames. But really, there will be so little variation that any one of the 20 will be fine. Or, we meet a moment, the action happens, and 20 more frames won’t hold that magic. It’s gone.

I’ve never been much for multi-burst. (old fashioned I guess), I never worry about the camera spec that tells how many frames I can get in the buffer before the camera stops taking shots.
Except: I do use it for some inflight shots. Mainly because I’ve got the bird in the viewfinder. If I try for single shots, I wander off the bird action very quickly.

It might be interesting to think of some of the great photographs that have been made over the years, and ponder what the ‘out-takes’ might have been like.
Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris–of the man jumping a puddle,  Galen Rowel’s Rainbow over the Potala Palace, Winter Home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lhasa, 1981.

No doubt there were several frames one side or the other that were nearly as good.

Sometimes there was only one frame. Think Frank Hurley and The Endurance trapped in the ice

or Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico

Because of the time, the place, the equipment and the moment, there are no ‘out-takes’.

I once knew a photographer, who travelled the world making shots for magazine and books to demonstrate various photographic techniques.  He also shot using a specially built camera panoramic shots on huge pieces of film.
On one occasion he was visiting Australia and a trip along the obligatory Great Ocean Road was in order. Unfortunately the day he went, the weather was atrocious overcast, rain and hail.
He did setup and use the pano camera to make a shot near Loch Ard Gorge and captured all the power of the surf whipped up by the strong winds. It was really a misty interpretation.
It did however get made into a large wall-mounted print that graced the hallway of a certain multi-national company. From memory the width of the print was close to 3 metres.
Interestingly he also shot quite a large number of 35mm transparencies. And after they were returned from processing, he set up a small light box and proceeded to edit them.  Out of 36 shots to the roll, he probably kept 2 or 3. Now the cardboard rubbish box he had contained some images that I would have loved to have made.
But out they went.

Spencer talks about why one of his images made the folio, and the other(s) didn’t. It can be a matter of lighting, placement, point of view, camera settings, changes in lens or simply movement of people.  In the end. One picture has to carry the story.

There are a lot of ‘almost portfolio’ shots from our morning with the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos.
But in the end, I chose this one.
Because of the angle. Because of the wing action and because the light was over the face.  The few shots either side miss out on one or more of those elements.

And above all, for me, it is a little quirky, like the bird.

Saturday Evening Post #110: Living the Dream

Often in response to ‘How’s things?” my coffee dude friend Steve replies, “Oh, I’m livin’ the dream!” Steve is Irish and it takes a bit to unravel his meaning as it depends on who has asked the question.

Sometime the emphasis is on, “Oh”, other times “livin'” and more often than not, “dream”.  Makes a huge difference in the message the enquirer takes away.

Sometimes, when we are out and about, waving long lenses and tripods and things, a passerby will ask, usually innocently, “Ah, are you out to take photographs,” to which my good natured response will be something along the lines of, “Yes, its such a lovely day to be out.”
Other times, as the question really is loaded, in that it infers, “What are you doing here taking photographs?” my response can be a little more obtuse.
Usually, “No, I’m actually cleaning out the guttering!, or, I’m really here cleaning the windows so you’ll be able to see out that little bit better!”

When the enquiry turns to a demand about, “Why are you taking photographs here?”, in a more aggressive manner, I have a legally prepared statement that I will respond with. It always ends with an abrupt, “I’m minding my own business.”

Just occasionally when we are out and about and a birdo or bird photographer drops by for the usual chat, which almost always begins with “Have you seen much, or what are you photographing”, I have a pretty standard reply,
“Oh, I’m photographing Striated Fieldwrens.”  It they are interested in fieldwrens the conversation goes further, but usually it swings to, “Have you seen my …. (target bird)”. and that sort of ends the encounter.

To those that ask, “Oh, how many fieldwrens have you seen”, I usually can answer truthfully, “None, it’s been very quiet today.”

However just occasionally, the Striated Fieldwrens are on the move, vocal and out and about.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of luck, because these little dude spend a lot of time in the bushes and grasses and with their superb markings disappear from view.

This one was out and about early in March this year, the last day we had an adventure at the Western Treatment Plant.
At least I could answer unequivocally about the fieldwrens, “Living the Dream!”

Saturday Evening Post #107: Matching the Mood

Hotdiggity.  We’re gunna commit photography.

After last week’s Saturday Evening Post #106, I felt like continuing with the voice behind the light photo skills exploration.

There are many studio lighting ‘sets’. One of the more challenging is sometimes referred to as the light of “Comic Book Villains”.

Split Lighting.

A variation of side lighting. A main light source is used at 90 degrees to the subject-camera plane. It provides light to one side of the subject, and shadow to the other side.

It is not the most flattering light for portraits.
It does add its own feel of dark mood to the subject—hence the ‘villain’ nickname.

Split lighting has quite a number of moods to offer.  One of the most useful is a feeling of conviction-assurance-confindence and sureness. It was used to great effect during the 1930s and 40s for movie starlets. A hint of mystery and  intrigue.

More recently I’ve noticed its been used in movie posters for ‘action’ style stories.
Lord of the Rings, Casino Royale, Lethal Weapon 4, Parker just to mention a few.  No, don’t watch them, I’m not doing movie reviews, just poster examples.
I once worked with a company that licensed the use of the Lethal Weapon 4 poster as an overlay for an entertainment centre experience. But. That is definitely another story.

It is also a very useful product in studio light, and has worked a treat for quite a number of car brochures.  Both Apple and Samsung have used a variation recently for their offerings.

The one thing about it is that the subject is always facing square on to the camera. The other day we were out with some Black-shouldered Kites.  The lighting was, well, overcast.

The grey sky was typical Rochester New York, 18% Grey. Now for those who don’t recall.  Rochester NY was (is) the home of the Eastman Kodak Company, some may have heard of them, they used to manufacture stuff called filum.
They also produced a device to help determine correct exposure. The R-27 Kodak Neutral Test Card. One side was 90% reflectance, White.  The other 18% Gray (note American spelling). It has been said that the 18% was chosen as it matched the grey skies of Rochester NY. It is not true that the sun never shines in Rochester, nor is it true that 18% reflectance is the average scene reflectance, but, tonight I won’t pursue that. Nor will I tell tales of the 8ft snow dump on the streets one winter.

The male has been named Bronson by my flickr mate, David Nice.
Bronson is a white and grey bird on a grey porridge sky. Think merge.

Then by one of those quirks of nature the clouds cleared momentarily and the early morning light brushed over Bronson’s side and he looked directly at me, and I had a Split Light subject and shot.

Gives him that awesome presence he deserves.

One frame was all I needed, and then porridge oozed back over and the moment was gone.

Saturday Evening Post #104: Everyone Right to Go?

Every day for the past 100+ days Victoria’s Premier, Daniel Andrews, has started the daily covid press conference asking, “Everyone right to go?”
So much so that a clip of a number of his beginnings have been put together and you can find  it here. I don’t do Twitter so hopefully this will link through ok

Yes, Mr Premier, we are indeed Right to Go. Please.

In Saturday Evening Post, #87: The fine art of procrastination, I rambled on a bit about the huge amount of uncurated photos I had languishing my photo library and my lack of motivation to do anything about it. Why wade through photos from 2011, when I’m certain to have shots that are better, technically improved, more meaningful than those older efforts.
So the photos continued to glug up the hard-drive(s).

Not being able to get out has  plagued (if you’ll pardon the poor pun), my photo enjoyment and the ability to share new work here, and on Flickr among other places.
So to amuse myself I started a little game of opening a year, and then clicking randomly on a month and then day and viewing the shots that showed up. Some were, to say the least worse than I had anticipated. Did I really photograph that!!!!! ?

But just occasionally a little gem would pop up, and my Flickr friends will have seen a few of them over the past couple of weeks.

Time as they say, marches on, and one morning I was messing about in 2011 folder, and I thought, “Why don’t I just delete these ordinary photos.”
So, I did.

It felt good.

I moved the next day, and soon had whittled it down from 75 also rans to 4 keepers.

I was on a roll.
By the end of the day, I had a mere 1,400 images from my efforts of 2011.  And some of them I would be happy to use.  Given that I had been out and shot for 235 of those 365 days, that works out at about 6 shots per trip. Many had less, 2 or 3 being much more average. Events like a nesting or special encounter might have up to 12 or more.

Hardly exciting stuff, but when I tackled 2010 the following day, I was both inspired and a man on fire. 2009, then 2008, then 2007 quickly followed during the week. And as the image count dropped, the gigabytes of images soon fell as well, and that gave me more enthusiasm for the project.

The challenge of course will be to keep the momentum going as I move toward the later years, and I might well—thanks to Dan—be back out in the field soon anyway.

Our Red-capped Robin is from the 2007 series. This was one of the first years that I was out in Woodlands. The camera was my trusty Nikon D90 and the lens was a Sigma 150-500m f/5.0-6.3 zoom.(it was filling in while my main lens was off at the camera hospital being repaired after a dreadful accident in 90kph+ winds).  The rig was mounted on a Manfrotto tripod, and a Markins Q10 ball-head held it all secure.

Which again shows how I’ve changed, as I rarely shoot from the tripod rig anymore. The nifty little Nikon 500mm f/5.6 PF is handheld all the time.

Another change for the better is the use of modern NEF, (raw) converters.

I’m off now to charge up the batteries, and tomorrow hopefully we’ll be able to take some baby steps out into the wider world and begin to feel once again at home in the field.

Yes, Dan. We are indeed Right to Go.

Saturday Evening Post #102: Making things happen

Oh, ok, it’s not a bird picture.

No, I haven’t run out of images. Just happens that I’ve been sorting through the photo-library, and giving it a bit of Jenny Craig love and slimming it down by some 15 thousand also ran pics.

I came across this set, and thought it might be a change to share a little behind the image.

Because, there is more going on than at first would be noticed.

Backstory.  Mr An Onymous and I were invited to a Nikon Camera Launch night at a Go-Kart track to try out some of Nikon’s latest products, and as we both had pre-ordered we did have a teensy vested interest in getting our hands on the gear.

At the time I was shooting a lot with the little Nikon V1, a much maligned camera on this very blogsite, but I had mellowed a bit.

Along with being able to use the cameras/lenses and flash, participants also got to do a few laps, to get the adrenalin pumping.

The area was divided up into various stations, each of which concentrated on one aspect or equipment style.

I chose to use the little VI and took the opportunity to get a hand on some of the small system lenses as well as a few of the normal F mount lenses.

I was working with some of the zoom lenses and shooting at the exit of a particularly tight corner on the circuit.  Slow shutter speeds and large apertures were the go.  From the island in the center of the corner the boys and girls where trying out the latest and greatest flash units.

It dawned on me that if I shot of a burst, then perhaps the flash from the other photographers would on occasion sync with me and I’d get a great look of the light coming from a side angle.
It did.
Given there were about 10 people using flash at the time, I was able to get many bursts with at least one flash shot.
Add a slow shutter speed to give the feel of speed, and the rest was easy.

I like this one, as the limited spread of the flash has meant the front driver was not highlighted by the flash.

Who said photographing birds was tough.

Tech Specs.

Nikon V1, 70-200mm f/4, ISO 3200 1/30 @f/4


It must have been a successful night as Mr An, still tells the story that the following day, I went out and bought a zoom lens for the little V1 🙂

Laying on the Speed

Saturday Evening Post #101 : Making Us Something

Go to the people.
Live with them. Learn from them. 
Love them. 
Start with what they know. 
Build with what they have. 
But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, 
the people will say We have done this ourselves

Lao Tzu

As a young photographer learning the ‘craft’ was not about sitting in a classroom taking in facts, comparing oneself to others, and straining to meet the expectations of a system-guided-scorecard.  The right composition, the right camera technique, correct processing the ability to talk to the theory of lighting, exposure, physics, lens design and meeting the necessary passing marks to gain a qualification. Add interminable hours of Occupational Health and Safety issues these days.

My journey, at least in the main, was through a series of tutors, some of which paid me to clean the studio, others that I paid in my own time, to learn from, and a few that with hindsight was simply wasted time.

I press the shutter on the camera standing on the shoulders of great ones who have gone before me.

We are, I fear, accustomed to ‘doing the hard yards’ over the books, and that will lead to ‘success’ in the field.

The wonderful mentors that I had the opportunity to ‘disciple’ with, were not so much interested in teaching facts, theory, or even skillsets. They thought of it more of what it means to make me a better photographer. Teaching to them was not so I could learn ‘stuff’, but what it would make of my craft.  Learning to calculate depth of field,(DOF) and doing it on the back of a napkin, does not mean I can transpose that into a photograph sometime in the future.  Say, with a 180mm lens on a 4×5 Linhof Technika with a subject at 5m, gives a DOF of   31mm in front, and 35mm behind the subject. But what the great ones wanted to know is how does that affect the end result of the photograph. Knowing the theory becomes very much a, “So what is the use of it”.

If all the teacher could impart was that I needed to do was get the exposure right for the highlights, or process the print for the ultimate rich black, or hold the shadows to allow the form to show, then it  leads more to despair than growth. What if I fail the test?

Setting tests for what I know, only separates me from the subject. The story.  The involvement. The message that the viewer should take away.
What I end up with is a carbon copy of what my instructor would have done. True mentors fire the inspiration within me, looking not only to what I have just experienced, but all that I have yet to be.

Someone once said, of 20 years in a business, “Have you had 20 years of growing and honing your craft, or have you just had One year Twenty times over?”

It is not meant to teach us something, but to make us something. The classroom may fill with useful knowledge, but it’s out in the field when all that  stands behind us as a foundation, where we humbly struggle with the story of our subject in front of our lens that true mentorship is rewarded.

Addendum, because every Melburnian needs a Laugh

Saturday Evening Post #100: Settling

Gotta admit when I started Saturday Night Posts, I didn’t know that I’d have made it to 100 posts. 🙂

Do you have the patience
to wait till your mud settles
and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
Lao Tzu.

Part of a much longer description of “The Masters”, from Chapter 15 of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching.

The main point being Patience. I’ve totted it up, it seems that by the time we are able regain some real freedom from the lockdown, I will have spent more days at home this year, than days being free to move about.  Not much of a record really.

So I am indeed waiting for the right action to arise by itself.

Tai Chi Pigeon, (a Spotted Dove) has been giving her own version of all this the past few weeks.

After much courting and mateship displays I thought that she would have been setting up a house for her precious young and already been sitting on eggs.
But, No.

She’s been sitting on the fence, literally, for the past few weeks.

Then yesterday morning the mud must have settled.
I want it to settle quickly, I want to be out and about in relative freedom.

Tai Chi pigeon on the other hand  has simply has been waiting. Having the patience of her species to wait for the way to clear. She remained unmoving until the right action arose.  Then, she began.

It is not a wonder to me that the ancient documents, like Lao Tzu’s, the parables of the Carpenter from Nazareth, Egyptian stories, the Original People’s of Australia and the Americas, the list is quite long, all make use of observations from their around.
The return of a bird, the blossoming of a tree, the melting of ice, or the flooding of a river, each in its own way are exemplars of waiting for the way to become clear.

Tai Chi pigeon had found her ideal nesting spot, under the eave of the next-door neighbour’s pergola. The rest  of the morning was a frantic backwards and forwards with increasingly large sticks to complete her little home.
Not that they are noted for their nest building creativity. A few sticks, bundled up, and everybody sits and hangs on. 🙂
Last year it was the standard rose in the house across the road, then two failed attempts in a small ornamental tree, the branches of which were hardly strong enough to support the dove’s weight, let along withstand the rigours of use and weather.

So while I wait feverishly the end of our lockdown, Tai Chi pigeon, has offered me another little lesson in waiting.
Because she is ready for whatever happens. Things don’t have to be just so… Things just have to be the way they are.


Saturday Evening Post #99 : Back to the 80s

My Ballarat connection daughter, Face-timed the other night. She is a girl of the 80s and we started to talk about the songs of that era, and the parody they are now to the current Lockdown restrictions.

It kind of ended up with us rolling on the floor laughing as we tried to recall as many as we could that had something to say about our current situation. Our politicians haven’t helped by adding such euphemisms as “Getting on the Bus” and “Roadmap Forward”, which no doubt could in themselves make great song titles.
I, of course was at a disadvantage as most of my recollection of the times was telling her to “turn that music down”

Here is a hit parade we came up with. Not in any real order, but it made us smile.

  1.  ACCA DACCA:  “Highway to Hell
  2. The Police: “Don’t stand so close to me”
  3. U2 “With or without you”
  4. Talking Heads: “Road to Nowhere.”
  5. Whitney Houston: “I wanna dance with somebody”
  6. INXS: “Never Tear Us Apart”
  7. Bowie and Queen: “Under Pressure”
  8. Queen: “I want to break free” or “Another one bites the dust” (we were getting silly then)
  9. Fleetwood Mac: “Everywhere”
  10. edited UPDATE Dire Straits: “So Far Away”… from me.
  11. Cyndi Lauper: “Girls just want to have fun”,
    I let that in as I thought of two more, although not really 80s
  12. Elvis: “In the Ghetto” and SkyHooks, “Horror Movies, the Six Thirty News”In the end we had a giggle and it gave me some food for thought

My Saturday morning read these days includes a topical piece by Virginia Trioli, on how the lockdown has left many feeling broken, and how most of our communication is via screen, through glass or from behind a mask.

But, one of the things she shared is a link to a new Bruce Springsteen release, “Letter to You”.  You can find the vid at the bottom of her piece.

Now I have to say its pretty much typical Bruce, he is a great entertainer, but to me, after awhile they do begin to sound the same, I once used his, “My hometown”, for an event, so I’m not unsympathetic.
His “Streets of Philadelphia” for the Tom Hanks movie is really quite a sensitive statement.
So back to “Letter to You”
It’s worth a  look at the vid, as it’s all been shot in black and white, most of it in stills, and most in the studio where I presume the song was put down.
Turn the music down, and watch the clarity and expressions that the mono vision brings out.   Says a lot about the power of photojournalism to reach into the soul of the moment.