My Last Thirty Journal Entries
I get a lot of questions about processing images, so decided to write a couple of journal articles which detail the exact steps I follow for a particular image. This article focuses on a problematic capture of two baby Black Shouldered Kites and illustrates the process I follow with a series of screen shots and commentary explaining why I did what I did.
I started photographing birds at Booragoon Lake about three years ago. Overtime it has become one of my favourite spots. Why? There are several reasons. The small size of the lake and surrounding area has allowed me to build up a good knowledge of the species that inhabit the reserve and develop an in depth understanding of their movements and behaviour. Such knowledge increases predictability and therefore the probability of obtaining good shots. It takes time and a lot of consistent observation to know nature. The many obsessive hours I have spent at this tiny lake have greatly helped my understanding of Goshawks, Black Shouldered Kites, Hobbies, Night Heron, Spoonbills, Swamphens and White Necked Heron. Such knowledge is extremely valuable to me. It builds slowly. Each observation, each understanding is another piece in a far greater puzzle. It helps me take better photos, but, more importantly it is how I find meaning, it is how I connect and it is how I make sense of my life.
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.
My interest in photography originates from my childhood, forty years ago, in the West Australian desert. As a kid growing up on Kalli Station a remote sheep farming property, I developed a fascination for the natural world. My spare time was spent out in the bush, wandering the creeks, granite outcrops and breakaways that surrounded our homestead with Jacko, my dog. We would walk for hours, looking for waterholes, aboriginal carvings, birds, animals, tracks and different plants. Sometimes we would take the motorbike to a distant rock or breakaway that held the promise of wondrous finds.
I am fascinated by light and colour, and, the more time I spend photographing birds the more I appreciate the incredible complexity and beauty existing within these two phenomena. In my opinion light is what makes or breaks a photographic image. It easily trumps subject, composition and technical accuracy. As a photographer I am constantly studying light, its qualities, direction and intensity; its effect on subjects and the vast array of subtle hues and tones it forms.
Warning............This is a bit of a long and rambly post.....me looking back over the year and really just putting words to a whole lot of thoughts mostly for my own purposes.............you can skip straight to my favourite 2015 images at the bottom!!
Terry was determined to get better and against all odds he has done it!! Over the course of the year he has got stronger and stronger. He has had very few long term effects from his treatment, and is now back into the full swing of life, fixing things, building things and making things.
Over the past year I have spent many early mornings at Alfred Cove photographing birds. This is a collection of my best images from Alfred Cove along with a discussion about exposure issues and techniques for photographing white birds. Alfred Cove is a tiny area of remnant marshland and bushland located on the margin of the Swan River in the heart of Perth. Within the reserve there are sandy beaches, mud flats, sand flats, intertidal zones and bushland. The diversity of habitat within such a small area creates a haven for a diverse array of creatures particularly birds.
One thing I have learned when capturing takeoff shots is to back my zoom out to allow for the wing span and avoid cutting off the wing tips.......it is a tradeoff because in doing this you often have to crop out excess background and lose image size but you also greatly reduce the chances of completely ruining a shot by cutting off the wingtips.The more I photograph a particular species the better I get at judging how far to zoom out, but with this bird I completely underestimated it.
Three weeks ago now.............I had a very interesting week.........it really started on Tuesday when I went to Bibra Lake arriving before dawn. Nothing unusual about that, or the first few hours which I spent photographing Egrets, Heron and Black Winged Stilts.
I have struggled throughout my life to find space where I feel authentic and where things are real. Within the mundane complexity of jobs, relationships, family, friends and daily life there are so many unsaid expectations and conflicting priorities that it is easy to lose perspective and clarity.
Two weeks ago I came across a Bar Tailed Godwit on the sandy point at Alfred Cove early in the morning. I had seen this bird with its distinctive long beak a couple of times before but never this close.
One morning I couldn't find any birds to photograph so decided to lay out all the gear I usually take out in the bush...........I was surprised to see it all together..........clearly I am not so good at travelling light!!
We left Perth on Saturday 28th of March at around 7.00am and drove to Hyden where we had lunch before heading out on the Hyden-Norseman road which intersects with the Holland Track near Emu Rocks.
In my teenage years, I came across the above stanza derived from Thomas Osbert Mordaunt's poem 'The Call' in the book 'One Crowded Hour' written by Tim Bowden. The book documented the life and death of Australian war photojournalist Neil Davis who is best remembered for his work on the front line in the confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia in Borneo and the Vietnam War.
Luck seems to play an enormous role in photography and for that matter life. This week I am having my own very personal bird drought. There just doesn't seem to be birds anywhere. I have tried all the usual spots and they seem devoid, even the regular stilts, ibis and pelicans are in short supply
On a recent trip to the South West we spend a few days camped on the shore of Lake Towerrinning near Boyup Brook. It is a large freshwater lake with surprisingly clean deep water surrounded by farmland. Adjacent to the main lake is a smaller shallow salt lake filled with bleached tree skeletons, stinking black mud and a slightly sinister atmosphere.
It has been about a month since I have visited my favourite stretch of the Swan River and as with everything the scene has changed. The vegetation has dried right off, the little white flowers are gone, the piles of washed up stringy green algae have rotted away and the birds are different. It is a place that is wonderfully peaceful and always interesting.
Lama Atisha Dipamkara lived from 982 to 1040 and is credited with re-vitalising the Buddhist traditions in Tibet and compiling wisdom from several different lineages together in his text Lamp to the Path of Enlightenment. This text outlines the stages of the Buddhist path as originally taught by Buddha and effectively forms a road map for spiritual practice.
This morning I headed to Point Peron again, hoping to see the juvenile Black Shouldered Kite I photographed last week. As I exited the Freeway heading toward Rockingham, I caught sight of some large raptors in a dead tree.
On Friday I left home very early and drove to Point Peron. I have not been there in years and thought it may be a good spot for some different sea birds. Secretly I hoped to see a White Bellied Sea Eagle!!
I first saw baby Darters in the nest on Xmas eve. Since then I have visited the nest a couple of times a week to check on progress. Not long after Xmas I discovered there were three babies. I had initially thought there were only two so it was a wonderful surprise.
I spent my morning at Herdsman Lake. It is a wonderful island of nature in the middle of our busy city with an incredible array of birdlife. I always find something interesting going on to photograph. Spent an hour and a half there this morning and this is what I saw.
A few days after Xmas I visited the Darter nest. I spent about half an hour watching and photographing and then..........a tiny head popped out, too small and too far away to get any clear shots. It was over a week before I made it back, this time two heads.
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.”
2014 has been the most unusual in my life................ Divergence from the norm started in January. For some time my husband had not been well. He had been having chest pain, tiredness, general malaise and dizzy spells.
Last year I decided to give up alcohol. I was drinking for the wrong reasons and it had spiralled out of control and was causing significant problems. There was an obvious risk of life descending into something ugly which I didn't like the look of, so I stopped and am happy that I did.
Fortuitiously the Darter nest is about twenty meters from the Kingfisher nest so it has been easy to see what is happening. So far nothing. When I visit either Mr Darter or Mrs Darter is sitting on the nest.
I have been watching a Kingfisher nest for about three weeks. Every morning Mum and Dad catch a diverse array of tiny creatures and ferry them into the hollow tree trunk to feed their babies. As they fly into the hole with their prey the squawking of the Kingsfisher babies rises to a desperate pitch.
Entree; Fat Juicy Spider
Main; Delicate Green Tree Frog with Skink Lizard on the Side
Dessert; Crispy Crunch Dragonfly
I was sitting on the river bank waiting for something to happen when I spotted this unusual bee. He was collecting pollen, hovering over each flower for a few seconds before diving into the petals. His green eyes caught my attention.............
Older Journal Entries
I was going to photograph Kingfishers this morning but it was very cloudy. The Canning River where they live is overgrown and shady and to get good shots the sun has to be out. So I changed my plan and headed to my usual spot on the Swan River.
I got up early this morning to go back to the Kingfisher nest. When I arrived there was nothing happening so I walked down to the river to have a look at the Darter nest. Mr Darter was sitting on the nest with his head tucked under his feathers asleep. Mrs Darter was not home.
Always looking for new spots this week I happened across two wonderful finds.........
This morning I headed back to my usual spot. I had driven past yesterday and there was a flock of Red-Necked Avocets so I was hoping they would still be around. I arrived to find two pairs wading in the small tidal pond.
Still water, sunshine and beautiful colours...............
I have been watching a Great Crested Grebe nest for a few days. Initially there was four eggs, then on Monday one baby and on Tuesday two. When I first got there this morning there was still two babies and two eggs.
It was time for a change so for the past two weeks I have shifted my early morning activities to a local lake. It started at lunchtime two weeks ago when a random decision to visit resulted in the discovery of Great Crested Grebes swimming around with tiny stripey babies on their backs.
It has been an interesting week!! First the Red Necked Avocets and now Great Crested Grebes. I absolutely love Osprey and Egrets but it was time for a change. I needed to find new territory so I headed to the lakes. A Great Crested Grebe floated past.
I purchased the new camera, a Nikon D800 along with the 80-400mm lens in December 2013. For various reason the camera was hardly used until July 2014 when we went up North on a brief trip. My old camera a Nikon D40 had served me extremely well taking thousands of photos over many years.
Until today I had only ever seen one or two Avocets and they were always too far off to get sharp photos. Today I was lucky!! I waded out to a sandbar to take photos of pelicans. I was heading back when I saw a flock of birds coming toward me.
This morning I followed a little Egret around the bay. Pure white with fancy breeding feathers, he looked like he should be calm and serene but was manically hyperactive............I can relate!!!
I was thinking about how our perceptions change with age and how children can be a lot closer to reality as they see the world unclouded by the mental filters and preconceptions that build up in our adult lives. It reminded me of a quote by Peter Matthiessen, my favourite author and I went to my bookshelf to look it up;
One of the amazing things about photography is the realization that we never see all that is there. Often I will take a series of photographs and think I know what I have photographed. I usually check them out on the small camera screen as soon as I have finished shooting especially if I think I got something good.
Some mornings very little happens down the River. You wait and watch……….The Terns are fishing on the other side, there is a solitary Pelican way off and the Osprey flies high in the other direction. This morning was one of those and it bought to mind two Buddhist sayings by Pema Chödrön, "Expect Nothing" and "Abandon Hope".
Sometimes it seems to me as if loneliness and sadness pervades life on a daily basis. We are so busy with our lives, rushing around, trying to fulfill perceived expectations and making endless exhausting attempts to feel good or stave off difficult emotions.
Until very recently I have never paid any attention to Seagulls, written off in my mind as boring pests, a brief glance was all I ever afforded. I first noticed it about a month ago, at the river alone, no Ospreys, no Egrets, no Herons, no Spoonbills to steal my attention, only seagulls...............
I have always loved this wonderful poem, it captures wildness and speaks of magical worlds where faeries reside and nature's rhythm plays unbounded by human interference..........I am drawn to see these other worlds, if only in tiny transient glimpses, that vanish the moment you realise they are there................
The Ospreys have a nest on top of pole. Over the last two months, I have been watching them add seaweed and sticks to improve their home. One bird, I am guessing the female, spends a lot of time on the nest while the other perches on a nearby pole or goes for long flights out over the bay.
Birds have them too!! Over the last week I have seen several arguments high in the sky. The most spectacular has been between two Osprey, talons outstretched, beaks open, in a series of fast contorted maneuvers which spun out across the sky.
I have been photographing Great Egrets for a few months. In recent weeks I notice they are more often in pairs and are developing beautiful white gossamer breeding plumage. Their cheeks are also changing from the usual yellow to a vibrant apple green which signifies breeding season.
On the weekend we were building a wall with limestone blocks when I spotted a tiny jeweled jumping spider. Iridescent blue and orange with dark green diamond eyes and a cranky demeanor . I couldn't resist borrowing him to take photographs. He was returned safely to get on with jumping spider business.
I was going through my photos and came across one I took some time ago on a trip to Asia. It is a golden faced hawk with a strong face and defiant eyes. A beautiful bird trapped in a cage. When you look closely at the photo you can see the reflection of the bars in its eye.
It must be a good day!!! Today the Osprey caught two fish at once!!!
Upset at various things I had left the office and headed to a nearby lake to have my lunch. In the car was my new camera which I grabbed thinking it was a good opportunity to practice using it.