Category Archives: Photography
A walk down the beach is about my favourite form of exercise, one I’m privileged to be able to indulge regularly. These days, I always have my camera by my side, ready for a photo opportunity. But this day was… well, I have to say it, ordinary. Grey and dull, with small waves chopping up the surface. The wildlife seemed to have stayed in bed, even the seagulls and terns which regularly patrol the shallows. The thing is, though, you never can tell what may arise. Many’s the day when I thought ho hum – and then something magical occurred.
On the way back, I spotted one of my regular photographic subjects, a Brahmani kite, perched in a conifer. There he is at left. It was a different environment from their usual haunts and these majestic birds are always worth a photo, so I approached, camera ready. I took two shots, then Pete called out “look behind you” at the same time that I heard whistles from the trees beside me. The kites had a nest and the second parent bird was bringing in a fish to the nestling, a few handspans above my head. Oh, wow. I spun around, firing shots. One, two, three… bloody hell. The camera refused to work! The second bird took off, joining its mate as they circled down to the (invisible) nest. Bugger bugger bugger. The camera’s battery was flat. (Insert a string of profanities of your choice)
Birds grow very quickly and this young Brahmani kite was no exception. On our next visit, two days later, we saw him launch from the nest, chased by an irate blue-faced honeyeater. The parent bird had landed on rocks exposed at low tide and waited for the youngster to make its way out there.
As you can see, the young bird’s plumage is very different to the elegant mature bird – but it would have been camouflaged in the nest.
And the moral of this story is… patience is a virtue. And make sure your battery’s charged before you go out.
I was down on the spit at the creek one morning earlier in the year, waiting for dawn as the tide came in. I noticed fish jumping, no doubt escaping the jaws of a predator and took my chance to see if I could get a shot, albeit at some distance. The result is at left, a little fishy jumping for its very life into an atmosphere which would kill it if it stayed too long.
A bit like us going the other way, I suppose, jumping from a burning boat into a freezing sea. What a choice. Hurl yourself into the unknown and hope for the best or stay and face a more certain death.
A while later, while walking on the beach in broad daylight, I noticed a school of tiddlers trying to escape an unseen marauder and I tried my luck again.
This time, the subjects were closer and I was able to get some better shots. How? I was lucky, of course. I couldn’t hope to press the button when I first saw a fish rise into the air because by the time the shutter clicked they’d be gone, but quite a few were jumping in the same vicinity. Using sports mode, I took a succession of shots in the same area. I ended up with a lot of pictures of the sea. But some captured that split second while the fish was out of water. It felt very special.
None of the above. And it isn’t a UFO, either.
I took this photo an hour or two after sunrise. The sun is quite a way to the left of this image. What’s happened is that sunlight has been reflected and refracted within the ice crystals of the high level cirrus cloud, producing a blindingly white object with a halo of colour.
No wonder primitive people were superstitious.
Feel free to copy – provided you recognise my copyright and attribute the photo to me.
Eventually the mating took place. She looks a bit panicked but I’m not surprised. And then we had the ducky equivalent of a post-coital cigarette. The feathers under the wings are white, but they’ve reflected the colour of the pool liner.
I quite like ducks (they’re Pacific Black Ducks, BTW) but we don’t encourage them because they poop in the pool a lot. (Even so, I think they pop by just after sunrise, have a quick dip and then push off again before we get up. I have found… evidence, you see.)
We have a backyard swimming pool and we’re not the only ones who enjoy a dip on a warm summer’s day. Now bear in mind we have a quite large bird bath set up right next to the pool and we keep it clean and filled. But some of our avian mates seem to prefer to walk on the wild side. Particularly the Noisy Miner Birds (that’s one on the left). So (of course) I wanted pictures. It’s a dangerous, dangerous business. If these birds get too wet – they’ll drown.
So here we go.
They don’t always make it. Sometimes they’re lucky and we’re there to rescue them.
We’ve had a lot of unseasonal rain lately, causing a change in our bird visitors. Every garden has its locals and our’s is no different. We have a colony of noisy miner birds, a bunch of butcher birds that come over regularly for pieces of bacon rind, a few pee wees, crested pigeons and turtle doves, all on the scrounge for bits of bread or fruit. Sometimes (maybe once every ten days or so) we’re visited by rainbow lorikeets, who like a piece of left over bread. There’s one couple (they usually come in pairs) that seem to be regulars. We can tell by their behaviour, not appearance. They’re not afraid of us and they see off any intruders of their own kind as if our yard is their territory.
When it rains, the lorikeets come in numbers. I guess it’s harder to find nectar and seeds when the water is trickling down between your feathers. And I expect they get cold, too.
So… when it rains we have scenes like this.
Yesterday, I decided to test how trusting the birds really were. And here’s your answer. I offered my piece of bread to the pair I thought were our regulars, they accepted, then everybody came to join in. Wild birds all, just some of the thousands upon thousands around the town. It was a blast. And a privilege.
I arrived at Trinity College Dublin with a spring in my step, my trusty camera slung over my shoulder. I’d come to see the famous old library, known as the Long Room and Trinity’s most valuable exhibit, the Book of Kells. Dating back to the Ninth Century, the book is a copy of the Gospels, hand-written in Latin and beautifully illustrated. We paid for our tickets and entered the exhibition room, where the first thing I saw was the ‘no photography’ sign. Sure, I was disappointed but I understood. I guess. Flash photography can cause damage over time. Makes sense, really. Sunlight can fade your curtains, flash is much more intense albeit for a brief instant – but thousands of flashes a week adds up to a LOT of radiation. I wasn’t too sure why I couldn’t take pictures of the posters they used to explain the book, though. The exhibition showed the history of the manuscript and how those ancient monks had made the velum from calf’s hide, how they made the quills from goose feathers, how they made the ink and lots of fascinating stuff, analysing the document itself. For instance, four different people’s hands can be discerned in the writing and illumination.
The Book itself is kept in a separate gallery, in a glass case and in low light. I gazed in wonder at the beauty of the document. The detail is incredible and comparing the volume with much later (albeit still old) books shows how exquisite this older workmanship really is.
Ah well, no photos. But at least I’d be able to take photos in the Long Room.
No. No photography. Let’s be clear here. There are a number of display cases down the centre of the old library filled with old books dating back, in most cases, to the seventeenth century and later. But apart from that, it’s a room full of bookshelves filled with old, bound, books. No photography? Really? I might, at a pinch, agree that flash photography could be forbidden for the sake of the books in the display cabinets, but panorama shots of the interior, flash off?
I’m not singling out the Trinity Library, this was, if you like, the fabled straw on the camel’s back. I didn’t notice an explanation of the no cameras policy during my visit, but this is what the College website has to say. http://www.tcd.ie/Library/bookofkells/film-photography/ Note they don’t actually explain their reasons. This site does a better job of telling people why. http://www.artgalleryofnovascotia.ca/en/AGNS_Halifax/about_us/collection/photography.aspx
But (sorry) I’m not convinced. We visited Catherine’s Palace and the Hermitage last year. There were no restrictions on photography in Catherine’s Palace and the Hermitage charged a fee for using a camera. Within the museum visitors were asked to not use flash when taking pictures of the oldest, most valuable paintings. The Amsterdam Museum whose collection has many works from the Dutch Golden Age, including Rembrandt, has no restriction on photography.
The no photo rule isn’t restricted to art galleries and museums, though. Visitors to St Paul’s in London are not permitted to use their cameras. Yet I shot away to my heart’s content in Winchester Cathedral and the York Minster, to mention just a couple.
Call me a cynic, put I say the no photography rule is just another way of stinging the tourist for a bit more money. I can just imagine the accountant tapping his nose. “If we don’t let them take their own pictures, they’ll have to buy our postcards and other literature.”
Well, let me tell you, I bought a book about the Book of Kells which explains the history and the process of creating the manuscript. In fact, whole pages of that book were used in the exhibition I wasn’t allowed to photograph. (Hmmm) I didn’t buy any postcards. Not a chance. I didn’t go into St Paul’s but I bought a book about the Hermitage and its collections.
Some of you might say I’m cutting off my nose to spite my face. I say that non-flash photography hurts nothing – unless you think it traps a soul. Words like ‘greed’ spring to mind. It seems to be a growing trend. In the Lakes District and down around the south coast of England they’ve installed ‘pay and display’ ticket machines in lay-bys at the side of the road. Pay to look at the view and stay long enough to take a picture.
Here endeth the rant. Please tell me what you think.
Do you ever get that ‘now what’ feeling? Where something is finished and you’re left empty, casing around for something else to do? It’s a bit how I feel at the moment, one project set free and now awaiting its fate, another teetering on the brink. I’ll start when I’m ready, when I feel less drained.
Until then I can console myself with the camera. Dawn is such a wondrous time, when the darkness gives way to the light and the waters blaze with brightness. I’m not often there to see it, but I was this time.