The Cattle Muster
It began in early January with a trip to Kalli Station to help out with the annual cattle muster. Kalli is my childhood home. A remote cattle station covering two hundred and fifty thousand acres of desert. An ancient rugged canvas marked deeply by the processes of time. Huge red granite rocks, split open and cracked by heat, caves carved into rocky breakawy ridges by wind and tangled overgrown creeklines etched deeply by the flow of water. I know the country very well from the ground. Memories from my childhood and times spent exploring the country on motorbike and foot have etched a map into my mind.
Navigation is one of the ways I contribute to the muster. Once the cattle have been found by the plane and contained into a herd by the bikes and buggies they have to be driven about 40klms cross country to the yards on the main road. I can ride a motorbike but, I am not confident enough to chase bulls or keep up with the men in rough country, so I usually go as a passenger in a bull buggy and navigate the way.
This image is one of my favourites. The bikes and buggies had left the homestead in the early morning darkness to reach this mob of cattle yarded in one of the Northern paddocks the day before. January is incredibly hot, but before dawn the air is cool and fresh and smells of damp dust and vegetation. As we headed North the dark sky slowly gave way to a stunning array of subtle pastels and soft textured clouds. As we pulled into the yards, the sun broke over the horizon, silhouetting the trees and the cattle and catching the dust kicked up by the herd as the bikes began moving them out for the drive south.
Shooting into the sun is often problematic but it can produce unexpected and spectacular results. This image inspired me to experiment more with backlighting. It is a skill I want to develop further, because when it works it is memorable.
Late in 2015 Jezz our beautiful Kelpie dog had five puppies. Over the course of January we found homes for all of them on farms. Penny went to live in Nannup with a sheep farmer, Millie when to live on a dairy farm at Yarloop, Cricket went to live in Manjimup and Gidgie Boy and Boof went to live with friends of ours on adjoining farms just north of Geraldton. Gidgie boy was my favourite. I fell in love. I don't think any dog has ever been kissed as much as him!! Extremely naughty, demanding, born with a cheeky sense of entitlement, spoilt rotten by me and just so loveable. This is the post I wrote the day he went to his new home.............
Gidgie Boy (The Best Dog in World) is going to his new home today.........I had planned to run away with him last night.........so he didn't have to go.........we were going to take the camo leaf suit and bird hide.......so no one could find us and pack some cans of dog food..........and goats cheese, olives and cherries for me............and hide out in the hills........somewhere with a good view, maybe a creek and rock pool where we could swim and of course lots of birds.........but I decided to be sensible......he is going to a very good home on a farm North of Geraldton where there are two older dogs and sheep and cows to work so he should have a happy and productive life........all the puppies are now gone........all to very good homes on farms. Goodbye little Gidgie Boy!! XXX
A year on Gidgie Boy is grown up and doing well on the farm, working sheep!!
Late in January I captured this image of a Thistle and Bee during my lunch hour at Bibra Lake. I had gone there to see what birdlife was around but ended up getting totally distracted by the bright pink thistle flower. These plants are actually a noxious weed in Western Australia, but that aside, they do have beautiful flowers. The colour is almost fluorescent and the bees love them. I took a lot of shots, trying to capture the bees as they approached the flowers. This one was the best. I found it very interesting that the image was shot with a shutter speed of 1/2500 of a second and yet the bees wings are still blurred by movement. They must flap extraordinarily fast.
Geometry in Nature
In February the water in Bibra Lake receded dramatically. As the water levels drop the birdlife increases. Swamphens and Rails work the shoreline, Stilts, Avocets and Greenshanks wade the shallows and Egrets, Heron and Spoonbills converge on the spots where the fish are concentrated. Bibra Lake is located close to my work so in theory I can arrive early, put in a few hours photography and still get to work on time. In practice, getting to work on time rarely happens, but that is another story. At one point along the shoreline, there is a secret tunnel through the vegetation which breaks out onto the lake behind a big clump of reeds. It is a very successful way to sneak up on the action without disturbing the birds. I usually get there in the dark, just before dawn. The lake is surrounded by a thick scrubby tree line and it takes a while for the sun to rise high enough in the sky to break over this barrier and hit the water. The moment it does, things turn magical. The vegetation protects the lake from wind and consequently the water is often perfectly still. The combination of dawn sunshine and reflective, still waters creates a quality of light that is extremely beautiful, accentuating colour and detail magnificently. On this morning, the air and the water were perfectly still. I had been there about half an hour when a Little Egret appeared wading along in the shallow water at the lake’s edge. It was hunting for little fish that get trapped in the reeds. I was lucky, it came closer and closer to where I was hidden in the reeds, eventually wading right past me. I was able to capture several beautiful images, however this one stood out to me. I like the geometrical patterns created by the lifted foot and the reflection. A sense of movement which contrasts with the perfect stillness of the surroundings.
A Trip to Penguin Island
In February Soraya and myself took a trip to Penguin Island. We caught the little ferry across and spent the day wandering the shore checking out the birdlife. Here is my post from the trip...............Penguin Island.........I haven't been there before.......but I will be back....very soon......There are huge numbers of Bridled Terns on Penguin Island......they are fast, noisy and chaotic.......fantastic to watch in action........the birds are perched on the limestone rocks and cliffs and in the vegetation........very interesting to watch in action......after an hour or so of observing them I realised that they all flew out to hunt together......one or two would make a particular call which seemed to be a signal.........the rest would then take flight squawking and several hundred would fly out to a point just beyond the surf......after about five minutes they all returned..........together.........the other thing I noticed is that they returned to the same rock or perch that they left from.........valuable information for a frustrated photographer. Bridled Terns nest in the thick undergrowth and I could hear the calls of babies in the bushes. Several pairs seemed to be still courting.........I noticed them displaying to each other.....perched on rocks they drop their wings and stick their chests out........the light was very harsh and the pure white and black of the birds made it tricky, but I managed to capture this pair doing their thing.........the image worked better in black and white with the contrast exaggerated a little to add to the atmosphere.....taken with my Nikon D800E and Nikon 80-400mm lens. Settings were; ISO 500, 360mm, f8, 1/3200.
In March I spent most of my mornings at Yangebup Lake. I had found a hiding spot in a clump of reeds. As usual I tended to arrive early, before dawn, get into my hiding spot and wait. Sometimes this strategy works really well and unsuspecting birds land in front of you, dance around and hunt completely oblivious to your presence. Other times it fails miserably. Birds land, dance, hunt and takeoff but not in front of you!! Just out of reach. Close enough to see but not close enough to photograph. On a bad day it almost seems deliberate. Staying put is a test of patience which, truth be known, I usually fail. Experience has taught me again and again that, the moment I lose patience and move on to a different spot, wondrous things begin happening in the original spot. It just seems to be the law of life. On this particular day I lost my battle with patience, gave up on hiding and sitting still and decided to walk around the lake. I was halfway around when I spotted this White Faced Heron perched high up in a dead tree. As I came closer his behaviour changed. His body tensed up and his eyes focused intently on the branch. At first I thought he was reacting to my presence, but then I realised he had seen a dragonfly perched lower down the branch. The Heron went into stealth mode and I had a wonderful few minutes as I watched him, ever so slowly creeping closer and closer. It reminded my of all the times I have stalked birds, trying to get close enough for a shot and mentally willing them to stay put.......please.....just stay put!! As he got closer the intensity built, then in a split second was broken as he pounced with a super fast and efficient strike. With the dragonfly now caught securely in his bill, the Heron turned and calmly walked back to the top of the branch to eat his prey.
Colour in Motion
In March 2016, Booragoon Lake dried up completely. Once the lake dried, the waterbirds left and a gang of restless Ravens occupied the space. The Ravens grew in numbers and tended to harass birds of different species making for some interesting interactions and some unexpected images. This is one of my posts recording such a moment..................I dropped past Booragoon Lake on my way to work this morning.......it has long dried up but since the water has gone the reeds have grown and now fill the lake with their translucent shades of yellowish green........the wind creates a beautiful shimmer effect as the reeds sway and the colour is reflected.........there were several Swamp Hens there this morning and a whole lot of crows........the crows were harassing one of the hens which was perched high in a paperbark tree..........as the Crows swooped and flapped around it, the hen started calling out.......another Swamp Hen answered and emerged from the thicket landing in the top of a tree close to where I was sitting.....they continued to call to each other.........the Hen close to me appeared concerned and kept looking in the direction of the one being harassed......eventually it flew......right past me toward its mate landing in a closer tree.........they kept calling to each other and the crows seemed to lose interest...........after about ten minutes both hens disappeared into the thicket together.........interesting to watch........this image taken with my Nikon D800E and Nikon 80-400mm lens. Settings were; ISO 640, 360mm, f8, 1/3200.
The Ancient Struggle
April was an extremely difficult month for me. A time of introspection following some obstacles in life........a lot of silent thought and time alone to allow my mind to work through the maze and get back on track.........a few things always help in these times...... good friends and family (you guys know who you are and I thankyou deeply). Time spent alone in nature, silence, buddhist teachings, birds and photography. This image was taken the morning after a terrible argument. Things had been done and said that made the idea of fixing our relationship seem impossible. The situation felt hopeless and I felt hopeless. I was extremely upset and anxious to the point of panic. I felt desperate. Photography is something that calms me down so I forced myself to pick up the camera and head to Booragoon Lake. It is one of my favourite places.
As the lake dried up in the summer of 2016 the reeds shrivelled and the waterbirds left to be replaced by Ravens and Kites. The number of Ravens multiplied over a few weeks until there was a large flock which tended to harass other birds and dominate the space. The young Black Shouldered Kite had arrived at the lake as a juvenile and I watched him grow up over several weeks. He slowly lost his mottled baby feathers and his eyes started changing from gold to a deep red. Alongside the boardwalk at the lake is a single dead tree. The young Kite liked to perch on one of it’s branches in the morning, however he rarely got any peace or was there for long. As soon as he landed, the Ravens would descend in numbers, flap about his head and take his perch. Usually the Kite would retreat and fly to the other side of the lake. Yet, I noticed that he didn’t give up, every morning he would land on the same perch only to be displaced a few minutes later. It all changed the day I captured this image. Courage and strength must have been building slowly within the young bird.
I was on the boardwalk, in tears and trying to calm down. The sun broke over the horizon and just after dawn the juvenile Black Shouldered Kite flew in and landed in the dead tree. It distracted me from my emotional drama and I focused the camera on the bird. Our eyes connected. A few seconds later, several Ravens descended toward the Kite's perch, but on this day he did not retreat. Instead the young Kite took to the air with a piercing screech and attacked. Amazingly, I had the camera focused in the right place at exactly the right time and captured the moment. The Raven fell backward and retreated far away to the other side of the lake with his gang of annoying mates. The Kite returned to his branch and perched proudly with a newfound sense of confidence. I laughed!! The situation was too perfect!! The Gods had sent a message and In just a few seconds I had been taught a powerful lesson. I sensed something profound, a kind of deep shift. It took a while to process what happened in my mind that morning but, I came to realise that the Kite represents me. It took him a long time to overcome the problem of the Ravens. He had to retreat many times but courage strength and wisdom were slowly building. He didn't give up. He was stubborn and persisted. He continued landing on the same perch every morning even though the situation seemed impossible and he was outnumbered. Eventually he had the strength to change things and he did.
When things get difficult in life I think of the image that came from the strange morning at the lake. The image of the Kite and the Raven powerfully represents my own difficulties, but, it seems larger than that, extending to symbolise the battles we all face in life. An ancient human struggle, forces of darkness and light vying for position within, opposing yet complimentary, different perspectives of the same wisdom, locked in a process that is never really resolved either way. It is my all time favourite image out of the tens of thousands I have captured.
Life settled to a degree, as it does and later in April we went on a camping trip to the Blackwood River. It was an opportunity to repair some damage and ground ourselves in the simplicity of the bush. As we were driving South toward out camp site a huge Wedgetail Eagle took off from the side of the road. It was very late in the day and we wanted to set up camp before dark, but the opportunity was too good to miss. The Eagle had landed high up in a nearby tree so we pulled over and I was able to very slowly sneak closer. He was well aware of my presence. Our eyes had locked as soon as I got out of the car. I have learned that it is best not to look directly at birds when I am stalking them. Often, if you directly catch their eye they will fly, so I tend to look down or sideways and feign disinterest while keeping the bird in my peripheral vision. This was one exception. Our eyes remained locked as I moved closer and I sensed some kind of powerful defiance, a commanding but protective presence. This was one truly magnificent creature. The setting sun caught a shimmer in his rich golden brown feathers and I was hoping he would fly toward me......but you can't have everything!! He pivoted on his perch, turned his head and flew off away from me. It had been a wonderful few minutes and in my overactive imagination I interpreted the interaction as a portent of change. This was my first reasonable image of a Wedgetail Eagle.
In May I fell deeply in love and developed a dangerous obsession. The object of my undying adoration was a Black Shouldered Kite while, the object of my obsession was a pair of elusive Goshawks that lurked in the shadows and appeared in rare momentary glimpses. These creatures lived at Booragoon Lake and in May 2016 I virtually did too!!
The Black Shouldered Kite
No bird has made more of an impression on me than this one. I am not sure if it was the juvenile Black Shouldered Kite that appeared so powerfully in April or a different bird. Either way, I fell in love. Every morning the Black Shouldered Kite would fly in to hunt, and every morning I would be hiding in the long grass hoping to capture some images of this beautiful creature in action. The lake was now completely dry and there was an abundance of of mice living in the undergrowth. Usually the Kite would land on one of the dead trees in what was the lake's island to preen and survey the situation for a while. He would then take to the air and circle about until he spotted movement. Once he did he would hover and begin a slow descent, lower and lower, before dropping dramatically and disappearing into the grass. After a few seconds he would emerge with or without a mouse and usually fly to the top of a very high Norfolk Pine tree. I became familiar with his schedule and over the course of May was able to get some beautiful portrait shots. The weather had cooled and on several mornings it rained. The light at Booragoon Lake is particularly beautiful in overcast conditions. The green vegetation that surrounds the lake seems to glow green appearing almost fluorescent.......beautiful colours which contrast starkly with the black and white of the Kite and somehow accentuate the beauty of the bird.............lots of different shades of green, yellow green grass, apple green bushes and deep dark green tones in the paper bark thicket............a very beautiful place especially after it has been raining and the bushes are heavy with tiny sparkling water droplets and everything smells fresh, damp and earthy.
At some point in my love affair with the Black Shouldered Kite, I realised that we were not alone.........this is my post from that time..............As I was heading back to the car I spotted something on a dead branch......it looked like a raptor but definitely wasn't a Kite......as I got closer I realised it was either a Goshawk or a Sparrowhawk........I have only rarely seen these birds.....they are secretive and challenging to photograph because they tend to lurk in thick vegetation and you only ever get a glimpse for a few seconds.........I tried to sneak slowly......but was really excited to see him....my hands were shaking.......the branch was in the light and the dark paperbarks behind made a perfect background........a pretty rare opportunity.......I think he sensed my excited energy.....I sensed that he was about to fly so took a few shots.....but wasn't close enough.......and then he flew.........these shots are quite heavily cropped and the eye is not totally sharp but I was still incredibly happy to see this beautiful creature......I went back the following morning hoping that he may be sitting on the same branch but he wasn't there. This was the beginning of an obsession!!!
I now had a Black Shouldered Kite to photograph and a Goshawk.....the attractiveness of Booragoon Lake had doubled overnight!! Over the next few weeks I studied the paperbark thicket that surrounded the lake in an attempt to work out the Goshawk's favourite spots. There were a few.......mostly inaccessible branches either high up or in the middle of dense thickets. Unless they are moving or very close by, Goshawks are extremely difficult to spot but interestingly I discovered that other species would give his location away. When the Goshawk was about the Kite would become agitated and often squawk and stare intently in his general direction, Willy Wag Tails would swoop the bush where he was perched and the Ravens would descent to harass him often forcing him to take flight and then chasing him away.
Another sign of the Goshawk was silence. When Goshawks are about all the little Wrens, Robins, Doves and Honeyeaters disappear and the bushes fall silent. I became quite good at figuring out where he was, but it didn't help with the photography. Unlike other birds, I couldn't get close to the Goshawk, he would take flight as soon as he saw me. So I tried another strategy, hiding and waiting. This worked a few times, although I never got a shot that I was truly happy with. As with most obsessions, this one lost momentum.......but the Goshawks are still at Booragoon Lake and I am still determined to get a good shot........maybe of the Goshawk eating prey or if I am really lucky two Goshawks together or perhaps a really beautiful landing shot. It is a project for 2017.
Praying in the Rain
A post from June 2016......it was the beginning of winter.........I have been busy at work so haven't had much time for photography over the last few weeks........if I don't get out there I get quite stressed..........there is something in me that really needs time alone in nature.....often just sitting and observing and then when an opportunity arises photographing what is happening..........by lunchtime yesterday I was desperate........it was overcast cold and raining but I decided to jump in the car and head to Alfred Cove regardless.........I took my friends borrowed D810 and 500mm lens and headed toward the river...........I didn't have to go far........the tide was in and very high........most of the Alfred Cove Samphire was underwater.........and a Great Egret and Little Egret were fishing........the rain had slowed to fine drizzle.............I hid in a bush up against the fence and watched........the 500mm lens is big.....I can just handhold it and with fast shutter speeds get sharp shots...........I could just use a tripod but it is another bit of gear and weighs me down...........so yesterday I found myself balancing the end of the lens on the fence. It worked really well......dropping the perspective of the camera to eye level with the birds. The Great Egret moved position a few times and I was lucky to capture a few flight shots...........I love photographing white birds when it is overcast..........the white feathers glow and the subtle light grabs the detail..........after about half an hour the sky closed over and it started to rain quite heavily..........I put the borrowed camera safely away in its wet bag and returned to the car happy to have seen the Egrets in action.........
As I headed back across the oval I noticed an african man praying on a prayer mat spread out in the carpark in the pouring rain. It reminded me that the holy month of Ramadan has started and was a truly touching situation........the Egrets fishing .........the Osprey perched up high........heavy rain........a dark shifting sky and the man praying. We exchanged smiles and I got in my car and headed back to work. On the way I stopped at the small bird hide further along the river. I was there for a minute or so perched on the edge of the platform when a man came in behind me. An older man with a heavy lined face and a bottle of alcohol in a paper bag. I have often seen this man when I have been at Alfred Cove. He sits in the hide and drinks looking out over the river. Yesterday was the first time I have met and spoken to him. It was another touching interaction and reminded me of my own battles with alcohol. Sometimes the world speaks in strange ways. It got me thinking...........three totally different people? Or maybe three people far more similar than outside appearances suggest. All drawn to the same place at the same time. Sitting outside in the cold wind and heavy rain. For different reasons? I don't think so. I think we were all there for the same thing!!
The Cobweb Dream Catcher
Whenever we are camping we make a point of cooking bacon and eggs on the fire for breakfast. I was eating my extra delicious crispy bacon and scanning the trees areound our camp for birds. It was really dark and overcast but for a couple of minutes the sun broke through. Shafts of light filtered through the trees and my eye caught a spiderweb. It was suspended centrally between two Snottygobble trees. The leaves of the trees were glowing a rich translucent green while the web was delicate and silvery. It was a stunning sight!! Enough to make me abandon my delicious crispy bacon and get the camera to take a few shots. In a dark forest light takes on new meaning. The little that gets through highlights colour and detail in the most beautiful way. In my mind the cobweb held a message. A natural dreamcatcher. Perhaps it now held my dreams from the night previous, and Terry's and the dogs? I wonder what dogs dream about? Or was it a natural mandala, intricate and stunningly beautiful, but destined by it's very creation to last for just a day? A powerful reminder of the impermanent nature of life? Or perhaps it was simply a spiderweb?
In July I borrowed my friend Colin's 800mm lens. It was a fascinating experience and one that I really enjoyed. I am used to being able to move about quickly, but the weight of the giant lens forced a different modus operandi...........more patience..........more planning..........sitting still and using a tripod or finding fences and rails to support the weight of the lens. After a few days I developed another method of supporting the lens, by lying on my back and balancing the lens on my knees in kind of a half sit up position.........it worked and was good for my stomach muscles!! I was incredibly impressed with the sharpness of the lens and briefly considered selling the car and the dog to buy one!! Here are some images taken with the 800mm lens.
Defender of the Wood Heap!!
Defender of the Wood Heap in the back of Dad's ute.............no one can be bothered un-loading the wood so it has stayed in the ute and the Little Red Caped Robin has moved in making the wood heap his home. He is quite territorial about it and apparently he can get quite aggressive........particularly with Wagsters......and the resident Fairy Wrens......and even with Mrs Red Capped Robin who doesn't seem to be allowed in the back of the ute.............taken with my Nikon D800E and a borrowed Nikon 800mm lens. This morning I put the giant lens on a tripod.........just didn't think it possible to hand hold and try and focus on a tiny hovering bird in strong wind at the same time.........taken with my Nikon D800E and a borrowed 800mm Nikon lens on a tripod with a Gimbal head.....settings were; ISO 640, 800mm, f6.3, 1/3200.
A Hobby from Booragoon Lake
Soraya was having four wisdom teeth out on Friday so I had a few hours up my sleeve while she was in hospital........poor girl...........but sympathy didn't hold me back......I left her there.................and headed to my favourite lake with the 800mm lens............. very very lucky to see a Hobby perched in the dead tree near the boardwalk as I arrived..........I soon realised there was a pair and they were hunting...............the 800mm lens is heavy but I can handhold it so got quite a few perching shots.......then I realised that if I lied down with my knees up and balanced the lens on my knees and raised my neck I could see through the view finder and the lens remained quite still...............I got a sore neck instead of sore arms..........but the technique worked really well.......apart from two lovely old lady pedestrians who thought I was dead when they came around a corner and saw me lying awkwardly on the boardwalk!!! After a great few hours I picked up the beautiful Soraya from Murdoch hospital.......she had been transformed into a chipmunk........but was OK and high on happy drugs!! Taken with my Nikon D800E and a borrowed Nikon 800mm lens!!!! Settings were; ISO 500, 800mm, f8, 1/5000. (There was enough light so I upped the shutter speed to compensate for any movement with the larger lens).
Nankeen Kestrel and an Unfortunate Mouse
It was fantastic lying down in the grass.......in the sun.......watching the Nankeen eat his prey......he seemed to savour it.......especially the guts............he would eat a bit and then look down at the poor mangled mouse seemingly fantasising about the next mouthful........I could be projecting here.......this is what I do with food..........although it usually involves chocolate, cream and butter not mice.............after a surprisingly long time just picking off little morsels he picked up the entire carcass and swallowed it in a single gulp........it didn't look like it would fit...........for a few seconds he looked like he was choking.....then slowly but surely the body and then the tail disappeared.......the first time I have seen a Nankeen eating and been close enough and in the right position to capture the detail.......and of course the giant 800mm lens helped!!! Taken with my Nikon D800E and a borrowed Nikon 800mm lens. Settings were; ISO 320, 800mm, f6.3, 1/4000.
I almost always find something interesting there to photograph, but on this day there was nothing. I had borrowed my friend’s prime Nikon 800mm lens and didn’t want to waste the opportunity with the big glass so I turned my attention to the Ravens. There were plenty about. This one was pacing up and down the boardwalk. I managed to rest the giant lens on the railing and focused as he moved back and forward. I probably took about thirty images. This one was the best. I like his intelligent, menacing expression and how one foot is lifted as he plots his next move.
Eating worms is harder than you would think...........initially I thought the Egret was catching little fish or tadpoles....but then it got interesting........as usual he would tense his body....eyes focused intently on the water.....and then strike plunging his head underwater...........usually the fish is swallowed quickly........but he seemed to be taking a long time.......he kept moving his head and beak around in a funny way.......it was too dark to really see the detail of what was happening.........I kept photographing him but thought it a bit strange at the time.......this morning when I had a look at the images on the computer I realised why......he was catching worms.......and each time the worm would wrap itself around his beak.......it was difficult for him to unravel it and manoeuvre the unfortunate slippery wriggling critter into a position where he could gulp it down............taken with my Nikon D800E and a borrowed 800mm lens. Settings were; ISO 1000, 800mm, f6.3, 1/2000.
The Road to Cue
In August we went back to Kalli for a few weeks. It is always wonderful to return to my childhood home. We stay in a tin shack, there is no internet, phone or television. We run a generator to power the fridge for a few hours each night and I cook on a fire outside or an old Metters stove. It is simple and after a few days my mind stills and I begin to notice more detail and subtlety in the sights and sounds that surround our cottage. There is a big population of Mulga Parrots around the homestead. They nest in the big gum trees each year and while we were there a healthy brood fledged!!! It was wonderful to see the young ones flying about.......the colours of the male birds are just stunning.....in the right light they shimmer in intense green........with contrasting spots of brilliant orange red and yellow. This is one bird that knows where to go.........the road to Cue.......well travelled by me!! This sign made from a Mulga post is on the road outside the homestead........it was there when I was a child thirty years ago and I think it was probably put there in the forties or fifties so it is pretty old!! I was really happy to get a shot of beautiful male Mulga Parrot perched on the old sign!!.
The landscape on Kalli is fascinating!! Huge granite rocks.......breakaway country with high ridges and caves and lots of creeks...........rugged and rich with earthy red colours.........in a few places there are piles of giant boulders which appear to have been literally dropped from above. At risk of upsetting people, I call them God's turds. They are truly magnificent.........as one would expect.............huge and ancient!! We spotted this one from an adjacent ridge. A massive boulder split into several great chunks. You can see the difference in colouring......the aged red on the outside and younger grey colour where it has split. Finding such things always throws up so many questions in my mind.....why did it split? Was it extremely hot one day and then it rained causing a temperature change sufficient to crack such a huge rock? How long ago did it happen? Why are the boulders sitting there in an isolated pile by themselves in the first place? How old are they? What happened to the volcano that made them?.........I guess I really should study some geology!!!
Dressed to Impress
These tiny red wonders live in the creek which runs close to the homestead. They make a very distinctive chirping call usually consisting of three chits. The sound carries a long way and I often hear these birds before I see them. When they do appear they often seem to be quite curious and will flit from tree to tree observing what is going on. They usually come in pairs, but I have noticed that the female bird is almost always quieter and shyer, often hanging back or staying hidden in a tree or bush.
In late August I went on my first pelagic trip and saw my first Albatross..........here are some posts from the day!! Yesterday was a fantastic day..........a pelagic boat trip out to the head of the Perth Canyon about 25klms west of Rottnest.........it looked a bit grim to start with.....dark skies......but we were extremely lucky....apart from one or two patches of rain the light was good and even some sun.........I knew it was going to be a good day when a pod of Orcas was spotted just past Rottnest..........they came quite close to the boat and we were able to see the spouts and have quite a good look...........I didn't get any amazing shots but was so happy to see them.......Soraya Haynes is extremely jealous.....she has been wanting to see Orcas for a while now with no luck.............
Once we got out past Rottnest Island the Albatross started appearing. Following our boat. Huge birds with a massive wingspan, wheeling in over the water, all around, the most magnificent sight!!! Albatross can walk on water............as they takeoff they literally run along the surface of the water.........I guess the big webbed feet and huge wings help to get the necessary lift.......incredible to watch. Taken with my Nikon D800E and Nikon 80-400mm lens. Settings were; ISO 640, 320mm, f8, 1/4000. I usually shoot with high shutter speeds......and yesterday when I could I upped it even more to 1/4000 to compensate for the rolling of the boat.......I had my camera in its rain coat which makes it difficult to view the images as I go.....so I was quite relieved to find that most of them were sharp!!!
The Shy Albatross.......my favourite from the day..........a huge bird........with a prehistoric face and massive wings........and beautiful subtle colouring with warm shades of grey, soft pinks, dark slate and black. Taken with my Nikon D800E and Nikon 80-400mm lens. Settings were; ISO 640, 370mm, f8, 1/4000.
A few verses from the The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.....Samuel Coleridge..........
At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.
It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!
And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner's hollo!
In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.'
'God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!—
Why look'st thou so?'—With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.
The Difference between Southern and Northern Giant Petrels
A final highlight of the pelagic trip was seeing both Southern and Northern Giant Petrels. They are also huge birds, with fascinating complex bill and dark shimmery feathers. To my untrained eye both species looked exactly the same, however they are not. The Northern Giant Petrel has a pinkish tipped bill while the Southern Giant Petrel has a greenish tipped bill.
September was another extremely difficult month. A close family member has a severe methamphetamine drug addiction. He has had a long, hard struggle and once again his life was spinning out of control. Addiction destroys lives, it erodes the spirit and damages the mind, addiction destroys families, it is an illness which knows no boundaries, dominates the lives of those close and creates enormous amounts of stress. There is very little help available in such situations. The situation spiralled to a crisis. One of the consequences of this difficult set of circumstances was a period of separation between me and my husband. It was an extremely difficult time for both of us however, in hindsight the time apart was valuable and we were both able to gain some perspective on the situation and work out what we were each prepared to do and where to put the boundaries. Our separation turned out to be temporary and we have since been able to prioritise our relationship and slowly get life back on track. I did very little photography during September and October, however, I did manage to capture a few memorable images.
I have been following these two very gorgeous juvenile Black Shouldered Kites for a couple of weeks..........but they live a long way from my home and work so I have only had a few visits........each time I find them in their soggy paddock which is filled with swampy weeds, grass and old dead paperbark trees..............when you spot one the other is never far away......usually perched on an adjacent tree or branch......occasionally on the same branch.........I had been hoping for a picture of them together for a while......but they never sat close enough........finally on Friday they did............I was so excited and managed to get close enough for a few shots........but it was dark and overcast......difficult light.........I have played around with the shots in Lightroom, adjust exposure, highlights and selectively lightening and sharpening the faces and eyes...and am pretty happy with the result......looking forward to seeing these guys grow up.............taken with my Nikon D800E and Nikon 80-400mm lens. Settings were; ISO 320, 400mm, f9, 1/3200.
A Grassy Perch
I headed to Baldivis last weekend to try and find the two juvenile Black Shouldered Kites......they weren't in their usual soggy paddock.........it was overcast and raining on and off........I walked through the wet grass and shallow water to all their usual spots hoping they would turn up....they didn't.......for a few brief minutes the sun came out.......it was beautiful....the light caught all the different grasses and varying shades of green.....for a little while the paddock was transformed from a soggy, grey uninspiring place to a fairyland........ this tiny bird was perched on a stump, surrounded by interesting grasses, the sun caught his feathers and he looked really pretty siting there......taken with my Nikon D800E and Nikon 80-400mm lens. Settings were; ISO 640, 400mm, f6.3, 1/2000.
Sometimes crappy light can produce some interesting effects.........this little Grebe was at Herdsman Lake..............he was busy building a nest and would disappear under the water and pop up a few meters away with a beak full of weed...........the overall lighting situation was dark and backlit.........every so often he would have a good shake......when he did this tiny water droplets flew everywhere .......it is something I am going to play around with more...........I love water droplets and backlighting can make them so dramatic and beautiful and add a sense of movement to an image............hopefully this pair have a successful nest!!! Taken with my Nikon D800E and Nikon 80-400mm lens. Settings were; ISO 640, 400mm, f8, 1/2500.
Our family dramas continued well into October. To distract myself I decided to use the time to organise an exhibition of my work. Together with my wonderful artist friend Sally Edmonds and my new friends, Zoe and Kristy, the owners of Soul Jahs Cafe and Wellness Centre, we created the 'Birds of a Feather' exhibition. Over a weekend in late October our best work was displayed at the cafe. It was a wonderful achievement for Sally and me, a celebration of our friendship and a great opportunity to display our work to the public.
Birds of a Feather
A Goshawk - Symbol of Strength
I finally picked up the camera again in late October. It was early one morning and I dropped down to Alfred Cove before work. A beautiful Goshawk with intense yellow eyes flew out of a thick bush and landed on the fence railing for just a few seconds before flying away. It was the first bird I had photographed in over a month. I have never seen a Goshawk at Alfred Cove before and interestingly Goshawks are an ancient symbol of strength. I interpreted the moment as a message and later that week I returned home.
Nankeen Night Heron in Monochrome
A quick stop at Booragoon Lake on the way to work............a beautiful adult Nankeen Night Heron was perched on the railing of the boardwalk..........I took some shots and then slowly moved closer.......he was completely absorbed in peening himself and didn't seem at all concerned by my presence.......I have lots of shots of these guys perched on the railings so decided to do something different with this one and crop in to just the face and chest.......I was able to locate the eye right over the intersection of the bottom right thirds........and angle the crop so the head feather, head, and wing create a series of diagonal lines running through the image..... I don't often do extreme closeups......largely because it is pretty difficult to get close enough most of the time....but something I will remember in future when the opportunity presents!!
Circle of Life
It was an interesting morning...........in my new spot........the Kingfishers are nesting in the same tree as last year......a noisy, busy little pair of birds........they defend the tree against all others....Crows, Magpies, WattleBirds all get dive bombed at high speed........there seems to be about a 20m no go zone surrounding the trunk.........I was trying to capture some of this high speed action when one of the Kingfishers dived down into the grass at the base of the trunk.......he re-appeared with a mouse.......I was amazed......I have never seen them catch mice before. The Kingfisher struggled with the mouse for about a minute......Kingfishers are little birds but quite voracious.......the mouse put up a valiant but ultimately fruitless struggle.......I felt quite sad watching the last seconds of his life.........when I was going through the images this one stood out.......I like how the Kingfisher, the mouse and the branch make a circle...... it seemed to describe the situation......circle of life..........to my over active imagination, the poor little mouse also looks like he is praying........
I went back to check on the Kingfishers this morning..........hoping to catch some action..........they were out and about.......very lucky as I got out of the car I spotted one perched on this dead paperbark........he took off and I headed into the swamp.......but something made me look back......and I spotted the pair...........together...........perched on the initial branch close enough to capture in the same frame......this is rare......I was quite a way off so tried to move quickly and quietly........they stayed put and I got close enough to get some good shots...........throughout the morning I noticed that these two often sat close together on the same branch........and they do not seem bothered by people......I guess because their nest tree is located only meters from a building and road..........I didn't get any more good shots but learned a bit more about them.......at the back of the building is a large carpark......both birds used it as a hunting ground.....sitting on the high barb wire fence...then swooping down to catch bugs and skinks on the bitumen!!! Taken with my Nikon D800E and Nikon 80-400mm lens. Settings were; ISO 200, 400mm, f6.3, 1/3200. (I should have had the fstop higher.........was lucky that both birds were enough in focus......but should have increased the ISO and the fstop accordingly to increase the width of the focus plane and make absolutely sure I got both in focus.....several of my shots have only one bird clear).
A camping trip to the Blackwood River started the month. A fantastic weekend with Terry, Soraya, Jezz and some close friends. We spent the time swimming and canoeing, talking and eating.
The Elephant Weevil
Soraya came running over very excited as she was packing up her tent..........she had found......in her words.........'A Bug with a very big Snoot'............it looked like some kind of weird weevil..........I was inspired......to the point of putting down my plate of delicious food and getting out my 105mm macro lens to try and do it justice..........we had the bug balanced on a stick and I got Soraya and Paul to shine some torchlight on to him....becasue I couldn't be bothered setting up the R1C1 speedlights.........I am out of practice with macro so there was quite a bit of fiddling around........I was just starting to get some reasonably good shots when the bug with the Snoot stood up on its hind legs and flew away over the river.......we were quite amazed...it just didn't look like a flying kind of bug........I suggested that Soraya go and retrieve it....but was met with an incredulous expression and rolled eyes...........taken with my Nikon D800E and Nikon 105mm macro lens. Settings were; ISO 500, 105mm, f5.6, 1/800.
A Family of Osprey
The year has finished with he discovery of a new spot. It is home to a family of Osprey. Mum and Dad and two unruly awkward teenagers!! There is a lot of action as the youngsters learn to fish and develop their flying skills.
A family of Osprey........with only one small inadequate perch.......unfortunately the sun was behind a cloud when this happened......and I wasn't at the ideal angle........I had been watching two Osprey perched......one had a huge fish.....but wasn't sharing.........the second bird seemed to alternate between coy interest......in the fish.......and complete disdain for the situation........at one point as I was watching they both started making their alarm chit chit noise.......I looked up to see a third Osprey circling......with a fish.........he kept circling.....a few times he came in close to the perch.......but wasn't brave enough to attempt a landing.......this went on for ten minutes.......eventually he came in and landed......causing chaos........the original Osprey with the fish was almost knocked off his perch........neither of them could keep their balance.......and the Osprey without the fish now had two fish to be jealous of............the situation didn't last long.......after about a minute of trying to perch the imposter bird took off............the original Osprey with the fish went back to eating......and the Osprey without the fish stayed another minute or so and took off.......maybe to catch a fish of its own. Taken with my Nikon D800E and Nikon 80-400mm lens. Settings were; ISO 320, 400mm, f10, 1/3200.
It has been a good way to end the year. Photographing lots of dramatic Osprey action in a beautiful peaceful spot by the river and having the opportunity to observe two awkward juveniles starting out on their life. Learning to fish, fly, perch and interact with the adults. I am very much looking forward to following this magnificent bird family into 2017.
2016 has been a fascinating year. Unpredictable and at times extremely difficult but peppered with some wonderful moments and a few very happy achievements. So many people have supported me both personally and photographically, with love, friendship, good advice, kind words, delicious food, encouragement, constructive criticism and practical help. To Terry, to Soraya, to my family, to my old friends and my new friends, thankyou!!.
As I wrote this journal article and looked back over the year I realise that the creatures I photograph and the places I visit form an integral part of my life. It is where I develop my sense of connection, intuition and empathy, practice peace and observation, find meaning and purpose and continually learn in unexpected and far reaching ways. To all the wonderful creatures that have crossed my path, thank you, I am deeply grateful!! To the Black Shouldered Kite with golden eyes who broke through the darkness in April, thank you, you have touched my life profoundly, I will never forget you and the lesson you taught!!