Saturday Evening Post #76 : The quintessence of Life

“We’re going through!” The Commander’s voice was like thin ice breaking. He wore his full-dress uniform, with the heavily braided white cap pulled down rakishly over one cold gray eye. “We can’t make it, sir. It’s spoiling for a hurricane, if you ask me.” “I’m not asking you, Lieutenant Berg,” said the Commander. “Throw on the power lights! Rev her up to 8,500! We’re going through!”

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, James Thurber Short Story published March 18 1939 The New Yorker

It’s a fair assumption that while most will have heard of Walter Mitty, in one of the movie guises, most will not have read the original James Thurber short story.  Here is a link to  a version.

As it turns out, with time on my hands at home, I’ve watched the 2013 video version starring Ben Stiller a couple of times the past few days.

The Stiller version has Walter working for Life Magazine, just as it is about to merge, (as it did in reality). One of their photographers, played by Sean Penn sends an image for the final front cover. The story in the movie revolves around that.

I’d watched the movie at a theater some years back and have to confess I’m not a Stiller fan, so it had little impact on me.
This time however I was taken, not with the story, but with the recurring theme of the best of Life Magazine. From the amazing sweeping scenery, to the interesting (strange) characters that have small but incremental parts.  Just like reading Life.
The Director of Photography (DOP), Stuart Dryburgh, has done an amazing job of setting many of the scenes to emulate that story lines of many a great Life Magazine story. Take the drunken helicopter pilot. The kids playing football high in the Himalayas (can you be low in the Himalayas?) A volcano eruption, and miles and miles of ranging Icelandic mountain country.

The second time I watched it with the sound turned down, and fast forwarded the ‘talking bits’,

It’s no secret, to those who’ve followed the my humble Saturday Evening Posts, that magazines like Time, Life, Nat Geo and The Bulletin played a big part of my early photographic training.  While still at school I was following the work of David Duncan Douglas, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, W. Eugene Smith, Eve Arnold and Dorothea Lange, to mention but a few. I was fortunate that my local small town library had a grand supply of magazines and photo journalism books, and to be honest, I immersed myself.

Places and people I never heard of, nor had any idea about how they fitted in to wider world, filled my head with the joy of the story and the wonder of the photographs.

So much so, that it is fair to say, that if certain events and people had not occurred in my youth (all good, no regrets), then I might well have filled that “Walter Mitty” in me, and as John Muir said, “With a pocketful of biscuits I set off to explore the inventions of God“.  Well, with a Nikon F, and a few rolls of Tri-X perhaps 🙂

Life Magazine had a motto, “To see Life; to See the World”, in the movie it becomes, “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life”

One of the most interesting photographic moments is when Walter finally catches up with photographer O’Connell as he is photographing a Snow Leopard. “A Ghost Cat“, say O’Connell, then decides not to take the picture, Walter asks why and O’Connell says, “Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.

All very symbolic and adventuresome. That I guess is why I enjoyed the visuals, with the sound turned down, less distractions to the brilliant camera work of the DOP.
Which left me with one unanswered question,  Who would go to photograph a ghost cat with a Nikon F3T (titanium) and a 300mm f/2.8 Nikon lens, without a lens hood?

And to paraphrase “The Alchemist“, by Paulo Choelo, “…the thing you really need is the thing you already have, you just need to learn to take a closer look. You don’t need to travel around the world, you had what you wanted all the time.”

Best wishes to all my Fellow-Stay-at-Home-rs.  Remain safe and well, and be brave to dream big dreams.

Enjoy.

. . . He put his shoulders back and his heels together. “To hell with the handkerchief,” said Walter Mitty scornfully. He took one last drag on his cigarette and snapped it away. Then, with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Evening Post #75 : A New Beginning

Hope everyone is well, and for those in lockdown where-ever that may be, that you are keeping sane.

I’ve completely given up watching tv “Fear News”, when it was ‘Fake News”, it was a bit laughable.  Now it seems that the media want to make everyone into a skulking paranoid.
I’ve locked in the Gov and State web sites. I check them and avoid the overworn adjectives that seem to have cluttered modern reporting (having trouble labelling it journalism)

Years ago I was called “anti-social”, for not being a social butterfly, but it seems that the introverts may finally have their moment.

Mr An Onymous always dreams of being a Lighthouse Keeper.  Isolation plus.

Melbourne Water have closed all Bird Watching Areas in the Western Treatment Plant. Sadly, I think I felt more secure in the acres at the middle of a sewage treatment works, than negotiating the byways of the local shopping center. 🙂

EE has been following a pair of Black-shouldered Kites since August last year. After a bit of stopping and starting, they eventually nested and managed to fly two healthy young.  Then strangely within a few weeks, the male had hunted the young ones off, and refused to feed them, they were soon off on their own.
EE thought that the pair would move on so we only dropped by once a week or so.  Then to our surprise, he started to provide mice, and carry sticks, and conduct other more serious relationship activities, (they bonked).

It took a few trips, but eventually EE was able to locate the possible nest site. High in the very tops of a huge pine.  Not easy to see, nor to photograph. And by mid-January, it was obvious she was in a nesting cycle.
Then, the weather turned feral.  We had 10 days of miserable cold, extremely wet and very gusty weather.  No doubt the the nest and its precious cargo would not survive.
After the deluge had passed we called by and again to our surprise, she was still at work on the nest, and was conducting running repairs with a new layer of twigs and sticks.
It says much about the tenacity, and dedication and perseverance that the female had to suffer the rain and wind, and still not abandon the project.

Because of the position and height of the nest, its been next to impossible to follow the growth of the young.
We went out last Friday, figuring it might just about be the final trip we can get in before more travel restrictions catch up with us.

We’d had in previous trips seen glimpses of movement and the occasional little brown head peeking, but had not had any chance to work out their progress.

So here we are.  Climbing out on the edge of the nest, surveying the area around.   Combine that with a range of wingflap activities and no doubt the next few days will bring both young out in the open. Not sure if we’ll be able to travel out to see them, but no doubt Mum and Dad will bring them on without our help.

So while one part of the world leaves us in despair, another part is doing its best to keep a species going.

Remain.

Saturday Evening Post #74 :A New World

“A Solitary Crow
In Winter snow
Needs no jewels”
Deng Ming-Dao

As a young lad, I watched, “Disaster Movies”, or read books that one way or another predicted, or pretended the “End of the World”, the lone hero/ine stranded, alone.  “War of the Worlds”, “The Day of the Triffids, “Panic”, “On the Beach”.
But never dreaming that perhaps one day, I would, with those around me, live in times of significant social, community and national change. On a scale that is impossible to grasp.

When I was a little lad, Neville Shute’s novel, “On the Beach” carried on its dust jacket a quote from
“The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot.

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

It would be many years later, that I would be able to appreciate the depth of Eliot’s work.
As a country lad, our family would travel to Melbourne over the summer school holidays, and as best my young memory can recall is that somewhere or other in Frankston, or thereabouts part of the movie was filmed.  It was the talk of the dining table of our extended family at the time.  We used to swim at Frankston Beach, and explore along the cliffs toward Mount Martha.
And if I’m not stretching the memory too far, the making of the movie would have featured on the then fledgling tv news.
So much so that I recall our collection of kids, played at “Making Movies” that summer.
The female lead, Ava Gardener is  purported to have described Melbourne as “the perfect place to make a film about the end of the world.” However it seems it was an enthusiastic Sydney copywriter who made up the quote.

It’s hard then as we face, “Self-Isolation”, “Social Distancing”, our personal hell of “4 metre square”, and the impossible task of finding Toilet Paper to grasp the huge changes thrust upon us. Perhaps not the end of the world, but I hope we all manage to come out the other side, safe, secure and with minimal loss.

Which brings me back to the Crow in the Snow.

Meng writes ,”A single crow standing unconcerned in the falling snow is the very image of independence. It needs, no clothing, no wealth, nor status.”

Readers will know I have quite the affinity for White-winged Choughs.  Not the independent bird of Meng’s meditation, but rather a community dependent bird. Their feeding as a group, their closeness with their young birds, the difficulties they face keeping their young together, and not losing to the family in the next territory, and their patient purposeful feeding always bring a smile to my face whenever I get to enjoy an encounter.

This bird, I’d guess to be a female, it and half a dozen or so of its  family were working along the downed logs foraging, but not eating.  Then when it seemed all had full beaks, they turned and all flew off.
“They have a nest somewhere and are feeding young”, EE observed.  And no doubt she was right.  We might on other occasions taken the time to follow them and see, but other duties called, and we left with their calls ringing through the Grey Box Forest.

Remain

 

Saturday Evening Post #73: Riders of the Storm

Apologies to Jim Morrison-et al-, for changing “Riders on the Storm”.

EE and I were out and about along the local beach, with a storm offering just on the horizon.  The question of course, was how long?

We were enjoying the antics of a few beach birds, the usual suspects, Silver Gulls, a couple of loafing Pacific Gulls, and some noisy hungry young Greater Crested Terns.

Suddenly, as in literally out of nowhere, a flock of fast moving birds, swallow-like appeared, and I have to say that was my first reaction, and I looked back at the terns. Then the first of the flock approached, must too bulky for swallows, and those long narrow knife-like wings took me back to my youth, and I called, “Swifts”, because in those days, that is what we called them.

There was little light, but still, it was an opportunity.

These days they are called ‘White-throated Needletails”. And as they sped past, the white throat and inner tail marks were obvious. First it was only one or two, but they kept coming and in the end, boyscout count, there was around 40-50 fly by. Just that  little too high up for detail, and they didn’t make any variation in their travel line.

As kids on the open Mallee plains, we would often see them flitting about ahead of an impending weather event.  A fancy name for wind, rain, and thunder.  The air could be electric.
So it was no surprise they had been riding on the edge of the incoming squall.

On checking my Morecombe Fieldguide, they are described as:

Largest swift in Australia, … one of the fastest of all birds, …often gathers over headlands in humid unsettled weather preceding thunderstorms.

That sounds about right to me.  Simpson and Day add:

Wings swept back curved, anchor-like, tips pointed.

And by the time we had checked to see if there were any more, the first ones no doubt were approaching Footscray!

We took the hint and went back to the carpark, arriving just as the first few spots of rain came down, and the road was awash on the way out.

“Into this world we’re thrown…
An actor out on loan
 Riders on the storm.”

Enjoy

 

Saturday Evening Post #71 Wings Out

One of the most sought after inflight poses for birds is the “Heraldic” form.

The doyen of the craft was an Englishman named Eric Hosking.  It is hard to appreciate the complexity and technical difficulties that Eric had to overcome, in this day of High ISO values, Ultra fast f/2 and f/2.8 lenses and long focal lengths, electronic flash and electronic release systems.  Yet some of his earliest and most influential work was made with a glass plate or sheet film camera.  Each darkslide had 2 exposures.
Yet, if you take the chance to view the EricHosking Gallery online or obtain a copy of some of his books, the work still is modern, fresh and extremely well detailed.

In any discussion of his work, several points will always be made.
1 His meticulous attention to detail.  His field note books contained observations and details that  advanced our understanding enormously.
2. His care for the subject he was working with. No photograph was worth endangering the bird. He went to great care to work in the bird’s world at its pleasure.
3.His endless enthusiasm for the subjects, their surrounds, the technical issues and opportunities to share his work with others.

It is so difficult to think of sitting in a hide, with just one piece of film (a glass plate of ISO less the 10) and having to prefocus where the bird ‘should’ be at the time of exposure, and then making just the right judgement to press the shutter. No burst at 16fps for Eric.

He had a most unfortunate accident early in his career with a Tawny Owl.  A hide had been built to photograph a Tawny Owl family, but late one night he had to return to the hide as he thought poachers were at work.  On entering the hide, the Tawny flew in, and and to quote from “Any Eye for a Bird”
There was not a sound, not even the whisper of a wing. But out of the silent darkness a swift and heavy blow struck my face. There was an agonising stab in my left eye.  I could see nothing. The owl, with its night vision, had dived-bombed with deadly accuracy, sinking a claw deep into the centre of my eye.”

Eric would lose the eye.

But he soon went back to work.

One of his greatest images is the heraldic owl.

This was made in 1948, and Eric describes it as a “One in a Million Pose”.

The basis of the shape of the image is the typical heraldic form of family crest.

That such a pioneer was able to give us so many fine images and be an inspiration to so many people, not just photographers, but naturalists and the general public is part of the tribute to his skills, and concern for his subjects.

I was working with a pair of Black-shouldered Kites.
The male lifted off the tree, and soon after the female took off along the track.
He was back in less than 30 seconds flat with a mouse.  And he immediately began work on devouring it. She turned up a minute or so later, carrying a freshly plucked stick, no doubt intending to do some work on a nest.
On seeing him, she changed direction, swung in, expecting I guess, to get a share of  his dinner, and wings out dropped the stick. (the header photo)
Then in a million to one moment, the wings were out in the heraldic fashion, and I heard Eric say, “Well done!”

Both shots have been through Nik Silver Efex Pro, just to keep the historic theme going.

Enjoy.

Saturday Evening Post #70 : Exposure by Cat’s Eye.

If you are like me, and let’s hope that is not in too many ways, 🙂 then no doubt you’ll have pondered from the day you first picked up a camera,
“What is Correct Exposure?”

And… haven’t there been any number of ‘friends, family, websites, blogs, books, faceblot pages, and courses to set you on the right road.

Luckily this is not going to add to the incessant chatter.

I think, “What is correct exposure?” is about as useful as asking, ‘What colour should I wear?’ Because of so many variables.

T’would be easy to offer advice, such as, “Oh for my bird shots I use the fastest shutter speed, blah, blah.”

The great New York newspaper, Wegee,  is reputed to have said, “f/8 and be there!”

So let’s go at this another way.  How to you-royal plural-determine correct exposure?

Well in this modern day and age, you point the camera, press the shutter and all is well. (most of the time, with the exceptions of the critical moments, when its wrong!)
No doubt modern camera design is at pains to get it as close for most general picture making as possible.  Else people wouldn’t buy the cameras. So hats of to the manufacturers for their great work.

All sorts of hand-held exposure meters have been used in the past, and each had their adherents. And if you think camera blog discussions get heated and verbose, you’ve never heard the disciples of one sort of meter lampooning the other less informed individuals of lesser choice meters. 🙂
When I started, the choice was pretty simple, English company Sangamo Weston had a Weston Master meter. I confess to owning several during my lifetime, and have just purchased one from ebay, as much for sentimental as much as practical reasons.

As time went on and studio requirements changes, so did my choice and Sekonic meters came (and went)

Note I’m not into, here, whether fast shutter, or large or small aperture are the creative issue.
And don’t start me on the poorly defined “Exposure Triangle”.

Just a lighthearted stroll through the thorny subject of how we determine from the light available, and our photographic intention, what settings might best bring out our intent and feel for the subject.
Simply, how to measure the amount of light off the subject. (Or just for completeness for the Incident Method die-hards, how much is going to strike the subject)

What is the average reflectance of a scene has also bought in its wake, a host of disagreements.

For the record, Kodak scientists in the early 1900s arrived that in bright sunlight about 13.4% And then based their recommended exposure settings for their filums upon that basis.
Not good enough cried Fred Picker and St. Ansel, and they  cajouled Kodak into making their measurements at 18%.
Dah Dah, enter the great Kodak 18%-90% reflectance Card. Kodak Publication No. R-27.  Cat 152 7795.  Which, distinctly says on the outside of the package.
Designed for use with and exposure meter in artificial light. For use with Kodak Ektacolor and Vericolour Films.

Makes me smile when I see the card recommended for use in daylight by some controversial exposure determining system. And also in camera reviews that say—Oh, the manufacturer has set the basic exposure wrongly as it overexposes by 1/3 stop. Sure does. It’s easy to speculate when you don’t grasp the theory.

Then there’s the Sunny Sixteen Rule. Used to be on the leaflet inside each roll of filum.
Set the shutter speed to 1/ISO and aperture to f/16 and in bright daylight you’ll get correct exposure.
And if you’ve never done this, then next time your out in bright sunshine, set the camera to Manual. Dial in 100ISO, set the shutter to 1/125 (closest to 100) dial in an aperture of f/16, and sun over-your-shoulder. Bet is so close  to acceptable as to be scary. 🙂 But who wants to shoot at f/16. Not me.

You could try the Nicéphore Niépce method:  8 hours out the back window of the house. Yep, first recorded exposure ever! And no shadows in the scene. Give you HDR folk something to ponder. 😉 Actually there is more recent research that suggests it might have been several days exposure!   Think about that the next time you choose 1/4000th.

Which brings us to Exposure by a Cat Eye.

Enter: Oscar Gustav Rejlander, the year is 1857, and he is embarking on a rather risque work called, “Two ways of Life”. Here’s a link

To quote from Rodger Cicala over at LensRentals.com,

“Rejlander’s photographic career was remarkable. It wasn’t possible to practice “street photography” in those days, so Rejlander would use models to recreate scenes he observed of the poor in Britain at that time, producing haunting photographs that are collected in museums around the world today.
 He was also the first to use a light meter— sort of, anyway. He would bring his cat into the studio: if the cat’s eye’s were like slits he used a short exposure, if more open a long exposure, and if the cat’s pupils were wide open he knew there wasn’t enough light to photograph!”

So there you are.  The next time you struggle with “Should I add or subtract EV for this shot?” Just remember there is a long history of incorrect exposures littering the photographic biosphere.
And take heart, I’m responsible for a good many of them 🙂

Here’s a visiting Black Kite, just back to re-establish its breeding territory I think.
Guess which exposure method I used?  Oh, and to help, I don’t own or have access to a cat;-)
Enjoy

 

Saturday Evening Post #68 : Sight and Vision

A lot these days in photo circles is talked about Vision. What they are wrestling with is; why I photograph birds, someone else photographs cars, while another does street, and yet another is ‘creative’ and someone else is  ‘general purpose’. No matter, the issue is the same.  Is the way I photograph the subject an expression of ‘me’.  And to a lesser extent, “Oh, and what I think if the subject”.  And if it gets me more “likes’ on spaceblock, then I know I’ve arrived.

And the discussions go off the rails as defining ‘me’ is not so much about photographic topics, but rather about becoming a ‘fulfilled’ person.

The thing that seems ‘obvious’ to me in going down that maze, is we begin to lose the benefit of the right language to find ways to extend the photographic vision.

People, say, “Oh, I’m not a creative person.” ” I don’t have much imagination”. But its not so much I think being ‘creative’ as having insight into the subject.  What do you want to say, how should it look, what is the right approach.

Sight is such a precious gift, so is in-sight. If I close my eyes and think of something, I’ll say, “Oh, I see.”  When I’m out and about with fellow photographers, I’m often conscious that they are too involved in their immediate ‘around’, and are at the mercy of impulses.  Point something out, and the response is, almost always, “Oh, I didn’t see that!”.

Others are hungry, and point things out that I miss
Part of that I think is the lack of language to identify ‘the photographic possibilities’ in front of us.
Form, Tone, Texture, Shape, Pattern, and all the rest are the building blocks of our creativity.

Had Jane Austen written “Pride and Prejudice” without a knowledge of word flow, sentence structure, grammar and description, we might have ended up with:-

Want acknowledged  is a man truth  , that a possession single good in  wife of a  universally fortune    ,  must be in of a it.  —Sorry Jane  I apologise profusely.

A client steps into the the studio to have their new whizz-bangery product photographed for a brochure.  A full brief is provided, Simple Set, Highlight the Product, bring out the best features. Make it appealing.
The photographer makes the shot, then says, “Oh, that is not creative enough, it doesn’t say anything about me, and my skill and my vision”
Next step, into Photoshop, download some Preset, turn the subject into HDR, blur out the company logo, make a drop shadow around the product name, give an ‘artistic’ wash to the final result.
Client says, “That is not what I asked for”
Photographer says, “No, but look how creative I’ve been”.
Client says, “I’ll look for another photographer.

or.

Client comes in with new  whizz-bangery product.
“I need a photograph for our new brochure.”
Photographer, “Sure, what is it about the product you want to emphasise. What kind of feel do you want to give it. How should the final look”
Client, “Oh, I don’t know. But. I’ll know it when I see it.”
Photographer, “Sorry, Look for another photographer!  If you can’t see it, I can’t photograph it.”

EE and I were searching for the young Brown Falcons. They are near full grown, so it was not going to be easy, and so we strolled along a track looking for a table for morning tea.  When there on the tree in front, sat, Brown. The weather was foggy, 100% humidity, and smokey still from the bushfires. The light was impossible. First shot is black shape on a black shape tree. Hardly inspiring. So I moved into the scrub a bit, and eventually managed the bird against a distant pine tree, but with so many light patches coming through the branches, it was not that much better.
Re-assess. I told EE I was going to backtrack about 50m, head across the road and hook around in a “U” to be opposite the bird on the other side of the road, at least it would be against a supportive background.
Brown, was in no particular hurry. Patience is their watchword. After a few minutes I was in position, and while not perfect at least I could see the bird.
And we entered Brown Falcon Time. Twenty minutes or so of preening, watching, changing leg positions, preening, watching.  Perhaps the fog and smoke gave it little option.
I’m nailed to the viewfinder.  After a suitable look around, the bird became active, stretched, preened out the wing feathers and was probably getting ready to leave.  Should be a good inflight I’m convinced.

But.

What I didn’t realise, from my position just off the track,  was that two people were walking down toward us. Then ‘crack’—a broken stick, and I made the absolute beginner’s mistake, I looked away. Milliseconds at most. Brown had dropped and was away. One wing flap-just about got it in viewfinder, second wing flap-on target, but out of focus, third wing flap-focus locked,— here’s a Flickr Link,  fourth wing flap-angle of bird is now away from me, and tail feathers aren’t that exciting.
“Expletive deleted”.
“Oh’, said the passersby, “Nature Photographers.  Sorry, hope we didn’t spoil your shot.”
“I’ve had better days,” I snap.
Both went on mumbling about rude nature photographers…

Here is the perched shot.
Again I’m going to show it vertical as that is how I envisioned it.

This young Brown is beginning to moult out of of juvenile colours, the rich orange is now being replaced by the more normal creamy colours. The tail has three long new feathers and on each edge of the tail, short growing new feathers, they grow fast so it should be good  in a week or so.

 

Saturday Evening Post #67 : From Studio Werkz

Studio Werkz was a proposed name for a photo studio/business in another universe. Mooted by an eclectic group of photographers, we had the idea of being able to offer a wide range of photo services, but in the morning, after the coffee kicked in, we managed to drift in our own directions.

Still I’ve often retained it for some bird portraits that have a ‘studio quality’ about them.

This is usually a clever mix of bird character, the right location and an interesting lighting set.

As my earliest mentor was oft to say when assembling a lighting order for a product or portrait, “We don’t keep adding light, we work to remove the shadows until the subject expresses itself.” Which means in commercial product photography that no two lighting problems are alike, and the difference of a few millimetres up or down, left or right of lights, reflectors, camera angle, lens choice could result in an entirely different rendition.

Which, still holds true in this day an age of bulk-flat light, the environmental feel, or the harshness of poorly balanced lighting and an over abundance of post-processing.

So Studio Werkz images try to emulate those great lighting arrays, without the benefit of controlled studio.

The other morning I looked out the front door to see what all the noise in the garden was about. New Holland Honeyeaters at corroboree. Each sitting on a branch and crying out at all its relatives.

And then one landed on the agapanthus plant in the garden.
The early morning light stuck hard lines across the bird, separated it from the background, incidentally my neighbour over the road’s garage door in shade.

“Right”.

Scramble to get the camera, grabbed the one with the 500mm lens, and opened the door.

Gone.

But the noise carried on and they flicked back and forward of the agapanthus, and I waited.

The trick of course is to get the best light on the bird, and to keep shadow detail, so there were only ever going to be some angles that would work.
Until Mr Clever turned up.

“Would you like me to pose upside down?” it seemed to say.

Adjust the exposure to hold the highlights, and the job was done.  In a studio of course, it would have been easier to add a light or two to open up the shadows, or at least put up a reflector to push some light into the shadows.  These days, we just slide up the ‘fill-light’ in software and job is done.

We each have our own way of making that work, and my favourite for many years was a Nikon Software, Capture NX(2). Its major claim to fame was some clever Nik Software, (different company) “Control Points” They measured the lightness and colour values of an area (think L*A*B* Color space), and then applied it to all similar values in a given area. Making it easy to open up shadows or make subtle changes to colour and tone. Sort of like Photoshop Layer Masks and a Brush.
Nik eventually marketed its own versions, and Google bought them out, and the series languished until DxO Labs purchased the technology and have incorporated it into their very clever Optics Pro software, now called DxO PhotoLab.

Pop the Adjustment Tool into the shadow areas on the bird’s chest, slide up the ‘shadows’ controller. Simples.
Dean Collins couldn’t have done any better with “Available Light”. — For new readers, there is a photographic joke in there—you’d need to read back on my Dean Collins series.

I have to say, I really wanted to show this as a vertical, so I’ve done a header image horizontal, as that is what WordPress demands, but here is the way I saw it.

 

Saturday Evening Post #66: Down the Rabbit Hole

“When did you go down the Rabbit Hole,” he asked.

I was chatting with a mentor, and the question of how we got into photography came up.

Long term reader(s), (Thank you), will recall I’ve discussed my early photographic exploits.  So I’ll not bore you further with daring exploits of a 13 and 14 year old boy armed with a Magic Carpet, “Super Balda 120 Folding Camera”.

But it got me to thinking about how Alice, in her adventures met all sorts of different situations. Together with some fascinating characters, and some great, thanks to Lewis Carrol’s unfettered imagination, and his superb way with words, that bring tears of joy and delight, along with a helping of drama, and the delicate balance of—will things turn out alright.

And no two rabbit holes are the same. For some it’s a technical exercise, for others a range of creative pursuits. For others the need to document the good, or the bad about the world around. Causes, events, happenings, occasions, quiet moments, even introspection are all part and parcel of the photo pursuit. These days an added facet is the unending webbased discussions that seem to fill each moment of the day with an ever increasing complexity. This camera, that lens, have you tried the best software, my vision, my pov, my set of rules or even my blindness to other’s view of their world.  All the while it seems it stops us from making those great images.

(I was nearly going to write, and where for all these waffling experts are their stunning photos to prove their position,. But not wishing to offend anyone, I won’t 🙂 )

I think a better question, is ‘Now that I’m down the Rabbit Hole what direction do I take?”  To mess with the Cheshire Cat? To follow the time poor Bunny, or to trade swords with the Queen of Hearts?  Or to try to escape from the White Rabbit’s house?

There is, as William Neale, points out, a delicate balance between working more with the same subject for better angles, better light, more mood, or simply moving on for another subject.
These days, I’m committed to Bird Photography, so add the additional “Wonderland’ moment of how the subject interacts in its world.

Sometimes I stay for hours, hoping for a new look at the old subject, sometimes coming back many days in a row, looking for that telling moment. Sometimes I find such exciting subjects and I just need to slow down and have the patience and the concentration  to wait for the right moment. The one that captures the right nuance of the subject.

Raucous, loud and bullying are all words that tell of “Sulphur-crested Cockatoos.” Amazing aeronauts, masters of the air and skilled artisans of the wind, also are part of their character.
We were in a paddock waiting for for the appearance of some small bush birds.  All around the Cockys were putting on Royal Command Performances.
It might have been a distraction.  But once down the Rabbit Hole, all sorts of worlds open up if you have the Key, the Potion, and the Cake. 🙂

 

Saturday Evening Post #65 : The Gift of our Very Personal Now.

Simple one tonight.
Mostly because I couldn’t have said it better.

Here is a quote from “The Online Photographer”, A Postcard from Peter

“The gift of seeing, feeling, and the joy of response!

“We live in a world full of immense challenges—often personal and maybe more often, generalized challenges to the spirit presented by the major forces at play all around us—politics, economics, ideology, attitudes, and environmental realities. In the midst of all of this—among the daily blessings and joys that offer so much amazing life in the present moment—is the opportunity to go out, and use one’s eyes, heart, movement, and presence to not only see, but to feel, and respond by registering with a camera, our very personal now. For many of us, it is not only photography, but more importantly, this opportunity to exist and live in the present among all that life can offer daily, that is an essential nourishment for the soul. And, it all starts by simply being out, present, and alive, by seeing and feeling. This opportunity is such a blessing for us all.”

—Peter Turnley

Original contents copyright 2020 by Peter Turnley. All Rights Reserved.

Mike at Online Photographer also features a photo by Peter. But courtesy means I won’t republish it here, without permission.

Peter Turnley is a photojournalist and has had many magazine covers over his career.

I have often pondered in quieter moments, that if I’d have not taken a turn to commercial photography, that PJ would have been my pursuit.
So to that end, much of my current bird photography is not about exotic, or more species, but simply to record the goings on of the lives on birds that I come in contact with.

Its my own gift of the Very Personal Now.

Enjoy.

 

Saturday Evening Post #64: A Special Conjunction

Art is the demonstration that the Ordinary is Extra-ordinary—A. Ozenfant

Been away for the past week(end) up at the family acres.  EE’s sister’s Wedding to be precise. Right on the edge of the fire zone in the north of the state.  How close, well, the reception was held in the local Fire Refuge Shelter-the hall was booked before the current crisis. At other times, it’s the local football club building. Go Tigers!

Had the chance to relive some of my early history, as I was called on to ‘do the wedding photos’.  Talk about dragging an old warhorse out for another canter round the circuit.

So armed with the trusty D810, and  brace of SB-600 flashunits, I did, indeed, set off. Add a good short zoom, 24-70 would have been the choice, and I’ve got inside groups and closeup intimate portraits covered.

And as it all came flooding back, like learning to ride a bike, I recalled why I really like to use strobe flash.  A touch here, a shadow fill there, a rosco gel on that one, change up the white-balance, bounce it, fill it, wind down the power for a rich backdrop, and so on, and on.
I also recalled why we went down the Nikon path back when we went digital full time:—Their superior (at the time) flash control. Joy to use and control the power and balance, without lots of cables, and light control gizmos.

Reminded me of a quote from Tom Ang, is his photography book.  “The joy and delight photographers take in their experience of light. It may, then, be a sharing of the experience of life itself. It is our good fortune as photographers to have a particular awareness of light’s harmony with life. For the special conjunction of a certain quality of light with the stream of life creates a ‘significance of meaning‘ that we turn into a photograph. Light always leads the way.
The wise photographer learns to be taken up by light—not to contemplate it too deeply.”

Working on the Magnificent Magpie project, I was suddenly aware that while I was walking around Maggie checking out the angle, the light the backdrop, the point of view, Maggie was evaluating me too. What a great two way communication.

I ended up sitting on the grass while Maggie hunted across a large lawn lit by streams of light against dark shadows.

And then Maggie stepped out of the shade, into the light, and the conjunction happened.

Just like working with strobes and getting harmony and balance through the electronic flash, Maggie worked with the available moment, and all I had to do was play my part.
Press the shutter button.

Tom Ang again, “The Tao of effective lighting is to let the subject and the light work it out for themselves. Letting be: that is how to be effective without working.”

Saturday Evening Post #61: Like a Wraith

Still working my way though Deng Ming-Doa’s 365 Meditations

“All things in this life depend on direction. In our world all is oriented toward the sun. The planets revolve around it, the seasons depend on it, and our very concept of day and night is tied to the the sun’s rising and setting. The sun is the dominant element in our lives.”

And on the evening before the Summer Solstice (in Southern Hemisphere), I thought, the sun is also the dominant element in my photography.

I talked recently about the “Sun over your left shoulder, Dear”.

Front light: Pure, direct, making our subjects brim with colour. Little shadow depth, a strong, harsh, rich light.
Side Light:  The angular light the gives us rich detail, with texture and form. The light of inspection, depth and tone. Running from brilliant highlights, to melding soothing form and tone, through to rich deep shadows.
Back Light: The light of Drama.  Subjects in rim light, highlights displaying the complexity of the shape. Long running shadows that have a mood and rich mystery. Lacking in colour, detail and texture, but making up for it in deep mystery and mysticism.

Light is the center of our camera settings.  I choose a fast or slow shutter speed depending on the light, and the intent of time perception. Light, I choose a large aperture for subject isolation with narrow depth of field, or a smaller aperture for greater depth of field and sharp detail across the frame depending on the light. Too much light and I drop the ISO, or I raise it for low light subjects.  I shoot with Neutral density or polarising filters to control my vision of the moment.  I add flash for fill-in or main light effects. Reflectors and gobos in the studio. And I try to find such effects when I’m in the field.

Light: The dominant element in my photo graphos, life. (photos-Light, graphos,-of writing) Who’d have thought.

I was waiting next to a melaleuca bush. In front of me was the large pine that Cassia’s nest is situated.  I can just see the two young bobbing back and forth occasionally.
To my immediate left, (and why I’m standing where I am) is a tallish young pine that the pair have been using for food exchange.  30m further away a larger tree with a huge pinecone cluster on top. Ideal for preparing food. And 50m further on, and opposite the nest, one of her fav perches, and a launching spot toward the nest.
In the distance in the paddock 2 isolated pines, both with excellent views over the paddocks and again favoured for inspections of the territory.

But. No Cassia.

Behind me and the bush, about 100m away is a line of very old pines, probably date to the 1870s when the homestead in the area was established.  About a week before she had been sitting among the pines and had made a direct run across the paddock, over the melaleuca bush and past my head at a couple of metres.  Not a defensive move. I reckon, she did it to keep me awake.  EE is still laughing.

The distinctive magpie call. “Falcon in flight. Let’s go”, alerted me this time.  I peeked around the bush, and like a wraith out of the darkness of the trees, sweeping over at fern top height I saw her running directly toward my position.
Light, just right. Soft, overcast, kept the backdrop moody, yet enough to separate her shape and form, and show her intention.
I think I spoiled her game this time:-)

As in the last few yards, she slewed to the left, and went by without looking.  You can’t hide from a Brown Falcon.

 

Saturday Evening Post #58 : A Step Closer

Continuing with the story of Brown Falcon at nest, and working inside the bird’s comfort zone.

She had been fed by the male. Looks like  a pipit. We were standing quite a bit far back from the action, when she took the food, landed on a tree nearby the nest and began to eat her fill.  The male stayed around and sort of ran interference against the marauding Black Kites, and she was so confident of his ability she didn’t pause from her food.

In the end, the Kites took the hint and moved away.

Next the story becomes interesting, as she took the remains of the pipit, and flew further out, beyond where we were standing, meaning we were between her and nest. Something she has not done previously.
After some more feeding, she picked up the pipit and flew around past us, and landed on a closer tree. Then she repeated the process again, landing just beyond where we were standing.

A look about to make sure all was safe and she launched, dropped to the deck, and swung past us about head height or so. Then with a few wing beats, she flew up toward the nest and landed on a branch nearby.
“She has a young one to feed”, was the obvious answer.

Regrettably, or on purpose, take you pick, she landed so the food transfer occurred behind the main tree trunk, and after a few minutes she flew out to land on a close tree-top and began her preening again.

We took the close flyby without aggression as a sign she has decided we are harmless to her cause and she’ll carry on around us. Hopefully she will allow us to share in the growth of the young one(s).

We’ll see.

Saturday Evening Post #57 : Nature Gives and Takes

Firstly a pause for to comprehend the massive destruction, “Cataclysmic, Apocalyptic, Total, Tragic, Devestating, Violent, and Undescribable” are words that have been used to describe the bushfires sweeping along the New South Wales and Queensland countryside as I write.

My heart goes out to all those who have suffered and lost and are bewildered if not overwhelmed by the speed and severity of the fires.  Heartfelt gratidue to all those brave volunteers who’ve put their lives on hold and on the line in so many ways to help and defend where possible. The task truly does seem overwhelming.
As a little, little tacker growing up on an orchard in a fire prone area, I remember my Dad being away for over a week or more a couple of times each summer to fight local blazes. In those days the major weapon was a small metal knapsack that held probably 20 litres of water.  Mum had several of them around the outside of the house and while they were very attractive and interesting to a small growing boy, they were not to be touched under any circumstance.

I hope that a weather change brings some relief to the drama.

But nature also gives; even at a very small level.

I’ve featured a nest branch of a pair of Little Lorikeet both here and on Flickr, and the other day, while we were looking for returning Sacred Kingfisher I took a little while to drop by the nest area, and at first it was quiet and I assumed they had flown the young. Back to the Kingfishers, and not long afterward I heard the distinct calls of the Loris and went back for a second look.
To my suprise both adults were on the top of the branch, and a little head kept popping up out of the hole. However in the time I was there it did not venture out, and eventually mumn and dad flew off to feed, and it tucked itself back into the nest.

May peace come on healing wings.