And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him, In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wonderous glory of the everlasting stars.

Banjo Paterson (1889)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Modern Nature Photography Comments

Thank you for all your comments. It's interesting to see how people view nature and modern nature photography. Most of us seem to be ok with how photographers take their photos (including Photoshop), as long as the photograping hoards are not anywhere near us.

It seems that majority of us also try to educate people through our photography, but share the concern of humanity's ongoing ignorance and lack of concern when it comes to nature.

As for sharing our pictures, yes I agree, someone using a personal picture of me for commercial purposes without my consent is not on. My general nature pictures might be ok, but not personal ones.

There are a couple of other environmental issues I'm interested in getting people's views on, so hopefully I'll post those soon.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Modern Nature Photography - Like Ordering Pizza

Is any talent needed for good nature photography? Any skill or knowledge? Give a young kid a long lens, good camera on auto and some instruction in Photoshop and he will probably produce an award winning photo.

I sometimes come across some wildlife photographers during my birdwatching. Modern warriors with long camo canons, with multiple shots firing every second that make it sound like a bad day in Iraq. 200 shots later, yep I should have a good one! Not good enough? Photoshop will make that perfect! Was any skill or talent really used? Were the camera and computer the real photographers?

I feel sorry for the professional photogaphers who really do know their stuff and make a living out of it. With so many award class photos out there taken by the advanced cameras and computers, the pros must really have to work hard. That special shot is now needed, of a lion dragging a gazelle while a croc pulls at the other end and a vulture sits on top, during a beautiful sunset and a bushfire in the background at an African waterhole.

High class photos now flood the internet and blog sites, with some animal species it seems like only the background or angle changes. They all start looking a bit the same.

Don't get me wrong, people going out in the fresh air doing nature photography is great. Many would say it increases our appreciation of nature, but I'm not so sure. The general public still seems very ignorant of ecological processes and issues, even after the hundreds of television nature programs and David Attenborough films over many years. Some photographers I know have no idea of what animal or plant species they are taking a photo of, it's just a nice photo!

Do many modern photographers really care about nature or is it just the quick photo? The early nature photographers carried their big film cameras into remote wilderness areas and developed a real love for these areas, often fighting intense campains to save these places.

The Ansel Adams, the Olegas Truchanas, early great photgraphers who knew how light, film and camera worked. They did not fire off 200 shots to get a good one and then play with it in Photoshop to make it perfect! They had to know their art, and photography is an art. They often had one shot and you had to get it right! Film was expensive and you didn't know what you got until you developed it.

A challenge for modern photographers - put your camera in manual, take one shot per minute and don't play with it in any form. Maybe even just take black and white. See how good you really are.

I have seen many poor, often blurred photos on blog sites, but with many followers leaving comments on how wonderful the shot is! Have we become use to our pizza diet of photography? Many of these people even copyright their photos. Why? Do we have a false sense of how good we are?

Actually, unless you're a professional why copyright and lock your photos away? I have many slides and photos and jpegs that just sit stored away. Who see them? Usually after an intial showing to family or friends they just sit there getting old. When I die someone will probably throw them out or just delete them! So much for my precious photos. If photos are on the web, maybe it's better to share them and if someone use them so what? They may just remain in use long after you're gone.

Yes photography is fun and a great hobby at what ever level you're at, but maybe we should learn how to be a good cook, instead of just ordering a pizza and thinking we made a great dinner.

Please leave some comments about what you think on the modern digital nature photography age.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cape York Birding

In just over two weeks, 226 bird species and 35 new lifers for me. Not bad for this time of year in northern Queensland when it's hot and there can be torrential rain most days, but it's the best time of year to get the Cape York migrants and endemic birds.

This was a birding-on-the-go trip with binoculars, scope/tripod and my small HV40 camcorder and Lumix TZ6. The reason for the smaller gear was the bird tour and flight to Cape York with a baggage limit of 16kg, my bag already weighed 16.5kg plus 7kg in my small backpack.

The plan was birding and wildlife spotting around Cairns, Daintree and woodland areas east of Cairns. Then a flight to Bamaga near the tip, staying at Seisia and birding in the Lockerbie Scrub, Woody Islands and the tip of Cape York.

A walk in the rainforest around Cairns will often find a prehistoric-looking Boyd's Forest Dragon (Hypsilurus boydii) resting on a small tree.

At this time of year many colourful female Boyd's Forest Dragons were laying eggs in sandy soil on the edges of forest tracks. At the end of the holiday we had seen 19 reptile species in total.

One of the great places to stay at Daintree for birdwatchers, Red Mill House. Wonderful area the Daintree, but the heat, humidity and mosquitoes were insane in the rainforest.

During the hot afternoon the best place was on the veranda under the fans. Where you could have a cup of tea and still do all your birding, watching birds flying through the rainforest.

The ever present Australian Brush-turkeys were always digging or running around in any rainforest area.

One of the smallest common tropical birds, an Olive-backed Sunbird. This female was nesting in her long sock-like woven nest, right near the stairs and window at Red Mill House and didn't seem the least bit worried about all the visitors.

The green and non-green war goes on. Near Julatten on a road were most residents have registered their rainforest blocks as small nature reserves or wildlife refuges, someone is rebelling!

The dreaded menace of northern Australia, the introduced Cane Toad (Bufo marinus). These big guys were everywhere plus thousands of young ones. With poison sacks on their bodies, they have reduced or wiped out many mammals, reptiles and birds that eat them across areas of the north. They have recently crossed the Western Australian border and may in time even reach Perth.

One of the more beautiful native large rainforest frogs, a White-lipped Tree Frog (Litoria infrafrenata).

Found on a walkway along a swamp, a wonderful small frog of eastern Australia, a Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog (Litoria fallax).

Even these poor fellows have to suffer the mosquitoes, Northern Barred Frogs (Mixophyes schevilli). At night you could hear their deep 'Wop' calls of these large frogs and and pick them up without them trying to escape.

Australian Bustards are generally an uncommon shy bird in Western Australia, but in the dry farm fields near Mt Carbine we counted more than a dozen birds in about two square kilometres.

One of our goals of the trip was to also see the mammal species of the area, so a journey to find the Mareeba Rock Wallaby (Petrogale mareeba) at Mareeba Gorge was made. We saw 12 mammal species in total, with the highlights being a Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo near Cairns and a Spotted Cuscus at Cape York.

The journey ended at the northern most point of Australia, the tip of Cape York. There once was a nice big stainless steel sign till some thieving idiots cut and stole it recently. Now it's only an old car license plate with writing on it.

This trip was a highlight for me as the beautiful Red-bellied Pitta cracked my 500 Australian birds life list.