wowfactorpix: Blog en-us (C) Wowfactorpix (Rob Smith) (wowfactorpix) Thu, 06 Jul 2017 00:11:00 GMT Thu, 06 Jul 2017 00:11:00 GMT wowfactorpix: Blog 90 120 Whales documented and pictured It's peak hour on the humpback highway and record numbers of whales are passing the coast where I live. What a spectacle and privilege to witness the recovery of a population that was down to a few hundred at the close of the whaling industry in 1963. These days the humpback whale population migrating along Australia's east coast is estimated to exceed 30,000. Three hundred and fifty two were counted passing Port Macquarie on just one day recently—24 June 2017.

There's a saddle between Tacking Point headland and a hill to the west of it. A road runs down the hill and across the narrow ridge of the saddle to the lighthouse. It's a favourite vantage point for me to scan from: north and south along the rocky coast on the lookout for raptors on patrol; or down the slopes on either side for bush birds. The vegetation on the south side of the road forms a windbreak from southerlies and westerlies and that's a key benefit on early morning forays in winter. Out of the wind, and the shiver-inducing chill, I can hold my camera steadier.

** Mouse over the images to see titles and captions.

A southerly prevails (2005)A southerly prevails (2005)This is the place I call 'the saddle'. The banksia is no longer there, cut down by council after a mobile home damaged its roof on the overhang (I saw it happen).

I was on station at the saddle this morning and hoping for an appearance by the Australian black-shouldered kite. Looking south, I saw a humpback exhale. There's nothing unusual about that at this time of the year; humpbacks are prolific on their northern migration past Tacking Point. I shoot a few photographs and video clips but rarely get anything worthy of a second look. Most get trashed. The whales are wonderful to see, for sure, but photographs of black shapes and puffs of steam far out to sea are unremarkable.

This whale was different. And it had companions. It was near to shore and would soon pass close to the rocks at the lighthouse. I legged it the two hundred metres to the lighthouse, arriving puffed at the top of the long flights of steps, and signalled to others there that a pod of whales was about to come around the corner. At the most, they were 100 metres off the point when they appeared.

I got some closer shots of "black shapes and puffs of steam" and could hear the whales' exhalations above the surf pounding the rocks. What a buzz! But they were on a mission; no pec' slapping or breaching—just full steam ahead.

Photographs? Yeah, OK but nothing special—nothing compared to the experience. I felt that I had witnessed a juggernaut passing. I imagined orchestral music. So cool.

On a missionOn a missionAn adult humpback whale passes within 100 metres of the rocks at tacking Point.

Photographically better things were about to happen...

The next photograph is getting closer to the kind of whale photographs I aspire to.

Documents and pictures

There are fundamentally two kinds of photographs; documents and pictures.

A DOCUMENT is a record...this is what the camera saw. You pressed the button to record it. Yes, it's a photograph of a whale. Does it speak to you beyond that superficial level? If not, it is, for you, a document—a fact. That's OK. There's nothing right or wrong about that.

A PICTURE: tells a story; evokes ideas; evokes mood; touches you; stimulates your imagination; encourages you to read it. You see something more than the document. What you see may be unique to you...a product of your personality and life experiences...your ideologies...who you are as a human being.

You photograph with all your ideology — Sebastião Salgado

For me, the next photograph of two whales hovers in territory between the document and the picture. The documentary bit is easy to explain; two whales surface and exhale; water is still streaming off the back of the far whale shrouded in steam; they're travelling from right to left; it's early morning and they're backlit; you can see the contour of a blowhole.

Whether or not this document can cross the line into the territory of 'the picture' depends on the viewer.

I can only speak for 'this viewer'. I see two huge creatures on a mission shared with all of their species. There's no stopping them. They're powering north and punctuating their journey with clouds of steam evoking the sense of an instinctive engine room driving them on. Juggernauts.

I imagine a harpoon man, in days gone by, closing on the leviathans and urging crewmen pulling hard on oars.

"So bend your backs and row, me lads, and take me to me whale!" The Whale Song by Terry Fielding

As they disappear under the waves and the steam dissipates on the wind I wonder "Where will they surface again?". So big yet so fugitive. Awesome.

On a mission #2On a mission #2Hovering between DOCUMENT and PICTURE. Imagine what you will.

The whales passed by Tacking Point and continued past The Backwash towards Pyramid Rock. Later today they'll be off Smoky Cape lighthouse. Tomorrow? Coffs Harbour?

FugitiveFugitiveSignature flukes of a humpback whale. It sounds. Where will it surface next?

Tacking Point's resident school (more than a pod) of bottle-nosed dolphins were on duty as the whales came past this morning. A few dolphins left the main group and escorted the whales for a while. When they were close to the headland, I had too much lens on to be able to fit the dolphins and the whales together in the frame. As they moved away, that became possible and I grabbed a few shots with dolphins included.

1. FB 11 2. 24 hours later via emailCompanyBottle-nosed dolphins escort a northbound whale.

Dolphins accompany a humpback whale.FrontrunnersBottle-nosed dolphins and their bigger cousin.

Sometimes I think "Well, the show's over now. That was good. Head home for breakfast?" Yes, the close action was over, but I kept the lens pointed north waiting for something different, perhaps a silhouetted breach against the bright winter sunlight reflecting off the ocean (anticipation is part of the nature photographer's toolbox). But it didn't happen.

Something different happened.

The normal view that a land-based whale watcher gets is of the whales passing across the field of view; on the northward or southward migration the view is much the same. This morning, after the whales passed Tacking Point and were joined by a breakaway small group of dolphins, they headed east for a while giving those of us on the headland a different perspective. We were viewing the migration from behind the players. We could see and appreciate the bulk of the whales as their broad backs surfaced and streamed water off their sides. We could see their spinal ridges blending into rotund bodies, and a picket line of dolphin dorsal fins ahead of them. 

With my camera set to burst mode, I fired away as dolphins led the way. My imagination went searching for military metaphors as the scene unfolded: frigates and flagship; vanguard; bringing the big gun...

The artillery analogy appealed to me and suggested the following:

  • detail  (noun) a group of soldiers or police officers given a particular job
  • detachment (noun) a group of soldiers sent to perform a special job separately from the rest of their group

The next photograph is the shot of the morning. I have photographs where the whales were closer and more imposing in the frame. They're nice to have but they can be described as record shots. Documents.

This next photograph is a picture. It's expressive. It conjures ideas and fires the imagination. Well, my imagination at least! I imagine the small group of dolphins that have split off the main group to escort the whale as an army detachment sent on a special mission. And the mission is to herald the heavy artillery cruising north. 

This image also has novelty for me. As a land-based whale watcher, I rarely get a view of the whales from behind. It's a nice point-of-view and adds to the imagined story in the image.

I'm happy with the image. It's at once a document and a picture of whale migration that satisfies my impression of what I witnessed.

Heavy artillery detachmentHeavy artillery detachmentAn image embodying the qualities of both 'document' and 'picture'.

Footnote: All of the whale images above were facilitated by my use of a dot-sight attachment fitted to the camera's hotshoe. It works like a rifle sight, allowing the photographer to quickly acquire target without having to look through the camera's viewfinder. This is critical when using a long telephoto lens. The whales surface momentarily and by the time I could locate them in the viewfinder they'd be gone again. Using the dot sight allows me to scan the general scene, not just within the bounds of the viewfinder's frame, and react quickly when the whales reappear. It works equally well for shooting birds on the wing.

]]> (wowfactorpix) awe documents imagination imagined seeing pictures whales |17Gf.28 Tue, 04 Jul 2017 09:36:31 GMT
King music Music and sound can punch above their weight as components of an audiovisual production. I know this, but have been emphatically reminded of the synergy in recent days.

I was privileged to be invited by Emeritus Professor Des Crawley to deliver a presentation titled "Integrating Image, Text, Sound and Movement" as a component of St George Leagues Club Photographic Society's 2017 PEP (Photography Education Program).

The first time I put together a slideshow of my landscape images, with transitions synchronised to beats in musical accompaniment, I was spellbound. Suddenly my images looked better; had more drama; took me back to the places that had arrested me and prompted me to lift the camera. The whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

It's probably true that the impact of music on my appreciation of my own images is in large measure due to the fact that I'm not a musician—other than being able to hold a tune in song and strumming basic chords on a guitar. Am I all the more impressed with the contribution of music to my audiovisual productions because music is the key element of the production that I'm not competent to craft myself; that I have to rely on others to provide?  Yes, I believe so.

Fortunately, through serendipitous opportunities during the last 10 years of my career before retirement (working as a corporate photographer and videographer), I've been playing with the arrangement of still images, video, musical soundtracks, and environmental soundscapes for a long period. Although the still photograph (specifically the printed and framed single image) represents to me the pinnacle of photographic endeavour, there is no doubt in my mind that showcasing of one's work in audiovisual form is a powerful way of sharing a large body of work that can never be wholly represented in physical prints or pages of books. Of course, the audiovisual mode of presentation trumps the physical image by virtue of the former's ability to celebrate components that can never be translated in ink: music; sound effects; the sounds of the Australian environment.

For years I've collected inspirational quotes and insights from creatives and written them in small notebooks. While travelling back from Sydney to Port Macquarie on the train yesterday, I browsed the pages of Volume 2 of my notebook collection. The quote on page 129 struck me with its relevance to my recent presentation at St George Leagues Club and prompted me to write this blog post. I know that my presentation was well received. I must give a nod to the music for its powerful contribution.

King soundKing soundQuote by Walter Murch. It's true!

It seems unfair, to me, that visual artists get more of the credit for their contribution to a piece than the composers who provide the magical, aural glue that binds the whole together—the music. 

If you're interested to read the entire article by Walter Murch, click here: "Stretching Sound to Help the Mind See".

So, where do you get legal access to good, royalty free music for your audiovisual productions? Here comes an unsolicited and unpaid plug for a resource that I have used for seven years.

I use Smartsound. You pay for a licence for an album or a track and you can slice and dice and rearrange the music to suit your purposes using Smartsound's online editor (QuickTracks) or its more powerful desktop editor called SonicFire Pro.

  • Have an audiovisual production that goes for 135 seconds and want a piece of music that sounds like it was written exactly for a 135 second production, with a beginning, a middle, and an elegant (non-truncated) ending? 
  • Changed your mind and added a bit to your production so that it's now a 156-second piece...and want a piece of music that fits the new duration?
  • Love a musical track but wish the woodwind section was louder and the brass and percussion elements were attenuated?
  • Want to make a 5-second audio stinger to introduce a particular slide in your conference presentation?

Smartsound can help your achieve all of the above and more. I love it. As a person who spent a 35-year career in IT and visual communication, I can attest that Smartsound's music and editing software is the most exciting software I have ever used to satisfy a creative need. Why? Read again paragraph 4 above. With image, video, and sound editing software, I feel that if I can envision it I can produce it. But I can't do that with music.  I'm not a composer; never will be. Thankfully, though, Smartsound gives me a way of adding quality, tailored music to my productions without fear of the long arm of the copyright cyberpolice tapping me on the virtual shoulder.


]]> (wowfactorpix) audiovisual copyright creativity magic glue music photography productions royalty free videography |17F.83 Wed, 28 Jun 2017 03:50:44 GMT
Produce your own greeting cards If you're a photographer, a wonderful way to share your work is to produce greeting cards. I've been doing it for years, printing them at home on good quality paper with an Epson Stylus Pro 3800 inkjet printer. The results are excellent. I can change the designs at will. But I've decided to go another way and have them printed on demand by an Australian company called D&D Digital Printing. Why? As good as the home produced cards are, they cost me too much in materials and time to finish (folding, trimming). Ultrachrome inks for Epson printers, and good quality heavyweight photo papers are expensive.

For me, the advantages of on-demand D&D Digital Printing are:

  • Economy—quantity discounts can achieve unit costs well below what I can manage by printing at home. As an example, I can have 200 A6 size cards printed on 300gsm paper, trimmed, folded and delivered to my door—including 200 C6 peel-and-seal white envelopes—for about 63 cents each including postage. For a bit more, I can choose 350gsm paper.
  • Time savings—I don't have to fold and trim the cards. I can do it accurately with my home-printed cards but it costs me more time than I care to spend on the task.
  • Quality—the print quality delivered by D&D Digital Printing is excellent, in my opinion.
  • Versatility—a print batch can be made up of multiple card designs. To get a 200 card quantity discount, I don't need to print 200 cards of the same design. Thank goodness! A restriction like that would be a deal killer.
  • Convenience—the files I upload remain on the supplier's server. I don't have to upload each time I want to order.
  • Opportunity—the convenience and economy of the commercial printing option makes retail sales through my website viable. This is a project for 2017.
    Even if you're not interested in a commercial destiny for your cards, they are cost-effective and uniquely from you as greeting cards for friends and family.

This is not a paid advertisement for D&D Digital Printing. It's an unsolicited endorsement. I support this supplier because it's an Australian business and offers better quality and price, in my opinion, than a UK based company that I have tried—the one associated with the sound a cow makes. Postage from UK is prohibitive and that company's service doesn't allow me to have unique, full bleed content printed on the back of each card design in a batch containing multiple card designs; every card has the same information printed on the back and, what's more, only in a small central tile. That doesn't work for my approach which is to value-add by having a unique story about each card design printed on the back.

The process

I've created my own Photoshop template (below) to standardise the way I create greeting card designs. This allows me to have text elements located in the same position in every design. The portrait format rectangle on the right hand side acts as a keyline and locator for the main image. The marks in the corners of the template are bleed marks. After the cards are printed by the supplier, they are trimmed to the bleed marks. Effectively, this crops 3mm from each of the four sides. Therefore, I must take care not to place crucial design elements (e.g. text or logos) close to what will become the trimmed edge of the card.

My templateCreate your own in Photoshop. Vital statistics are shown below.

Below is a finished design based on the template above, with the trim marks layer hidden. 

Watching the flank (A6 greeting card)Watching the flank (A6 greeting card)Juvenile eastern grey kangaroos near Buiree Point, Lake Copeton. Shot from the car, positioned to achieve out-of-focus offset kangaroo in background. 1/1500th @ f5.6 & 840mm ISO 1600 ®

With some basic Photoshop knowledge, you can create your own greeting card template. The vital statistics of the file you need for A6 portrait format cards are shown below. A file with these characteristics will print as an A5 sheet at 300 pixels per inch (high quality). The A5 sheet will be folded in half to produce an A6 size greeting card.

CHOOSE MENU ITEM: Image>Image size...

2551 x 1825 pixelsResolution must be 300 pixels per inch

Ensure that the image mode is set to 8 bits/Channel CMYK Color so it's compatible with the printing system used by the print supplier.

CHOOSE MENU ITEM: Image>Mode> TICK CMYK Colour and TICK 8 Bits/Channel

Image mode CMYK Color

Convert the colour profile of the image to a destination profile compatible with the print system used by

CHOOSE MENU ITEM: Edit>Convert to profile...>Choose Destination Space Profile Coated FOGRA39 (ISO 12647-2:2004)

Colour profile

When you've finished laying out your card design (image, graphics, text)...

  1. Hide any template layers that are not needed in the printed version (such as trim mark layers)
  2. Flatten the file, including all text layers...
    CHOOSE MENU ITEM: Layer>Flatten image 
  3. Save the file as a Photoshop PDF file...

Save as PDFSubstitute 'Filename' with your desired filename.

...with the following PDF settings.

Save Adobe PDFEnsure 'Preserve Photoshop editing Capabilities' is unchecked.

NOTE: Ensure that the box 'Preserve Photoshop editing capabilities' is unchecked, otherwise the resulting PDF file will be as much as five times larger (in megabytes) than necessary, and slower to upload to the print supplier's website.

At this point...

If you have followed the instructions above, you will have a .PDF file of your design that is ready to upload to the print supplier's website.

Repeat all of the steps above for each card design that you wish to produce.  A benefit of on demand digital printing is that you can order a batch of cards to be printed and the order (minimum quantity of 25 cards) can be made up of cards of more than one design. I recently designed 8 cards and placed an order for 40 made up of 5 cards of each design (8 x 5 = 40).

Resume here when you're ready to upload your card designs

When you have your stash of print-ready .PDF card design files, it's time to visit You'll find out what's involved when you get there, but here's a summary of the steps you'll take:

  1. Register for a user account
  2. Upload your .PDF files
  3. Order your cards and options (total quantity, paper weight, paper finish, envolopes or not, flat or folded cards etc.)
  4. Choose one of your previously uploaded card designs as the representative of your batch
    If you want your batch to be made up of different card designs, simply write your instructions in the comments section of the order and D&D staff will sort it out for you. For example, you could write...'Please print 5 copies of each of the following 5 files for a total of 25 cards: file1.pdf, file2.pdf, file3.pdf, file4.pdf, and file5.pdf'
  5. Complete your order through the checkout and wait for your cards to arrive in 3-6 days from ordering.

(Untitled)Eight card designsUploaded as CMYK .PDF files (Untitled)Each card has its own backstoryPersonal natural history observations and photographic EXIF data. (Untitled)Ready for retail saleEach card packaged with a quality (post office preferred size) envelope and protected in a peel-and-seal cellophane bag.


]]> (wowfactorpix) How to Photoshop greeting cards on demand digital printing templates |17F.206 Thu, 22 Dec 2016 02:47:09 GMT
Dark Point ages In October I stopped off at one of my favourite locations in the Myall Lakes National Park and spent an hour or so wandering with a camera and a wide angle lens and nothing particular in mind except to find things that looked interesting.

I was returning from a couple of days spent photographing in the Port Stephens area with friends Des and Roy. Turning off the Pacific Highway on my way north, I headed towards Tea Gardens then Hawks Nest then on to the coast road to Bombah Point in the national park.  The expansive dune complex at Dark Point was my destination. I arrived at midday, not the most attractive time of day, light-wise, for the landscape photographer. However, when traveling, one often has to take things as they come at whatever time of day it may be.

I made photographs of a number of dune studies, appreciating the minimalism and starkness of the landscape. And that was that. I had no particular use in mind for the images at the time of making them, but knew that a few would survive the cull when I reviewed them on my computer

If you've read the two blog posts preceding this one, you'll know that my interest in the Myall Creek massacre has been kindled recently (see Myall Creek Part 1 and Myall Creek Part 2). I want to make some photographs that express my feelings about that infamous incident in Australia's past, but I don't yet have the photographic materials that I need to work that project through. In the meantime, however, I can work through some ideas with materials that I have already collected.

While browsing my catalogue of images I came across the image below and thought "I can do something with that". Perhaps I reached that conclusion simply because this image shares some things in common with the Myall Creek massacre: the location name 'Myall'; and the fact that it's a place of significance to Indigenous Australians.

Imagined vision and the expressive process

I'll walk you through the ideas that the scene below can conjure in my mind, and just one approach that I might take to express them in a scene constructed from photographic captures and imagined seeing. My ideas and process may seem crude or fanciful but that's how I work. I don't claim to have any higher order intellectual or artistic way of doing things. All I do is let ideas flow and see which of them work for me in expressing what I visualise. I would class the Photoshop techniques used in creating the final composite image as 'basic'—that is, requiring only a basic level of skill to accomplish in Photoashop.

Image 1: The shifting sands at Dark Point have engulfed some trees that stand like totems in a wasteland. Beyond the sandy horizon lies the coast and the bounty of the sea. Dark Point is a place of significance to the Indigenous Worimi people. Beyond the horizon are the remains of middens attesting to the Indigenous peoples's long association with the place. The skeletal trees in this photograph can be a metaphor for a tribal group of Worimi people; the encroaching sand as a metaphor for time...history...the past...burial...extinguishment.

This image becomes the background layer of the composite; the bedrock upon which the visualised image is constructed.

Technical note: The dark corners of the image (vignetting) have been caused by a polarising filter that I fitted to the lens. The filter was not large enough to fully clear the field of view of the zoom lens at its widest setting and the metal ring surrounding the filter has encroached into the frame.

(Untitled)Engulfed trees—Myall Lakes NP1/350th @ f8 & 14mm ISO 100

Image 2: Mist rises above the slightly rippled waters of Lake Inverell on a spring morning. I like the darker bands across the top and bottom of the image and the ethereal mood between them. I imagine that these will contribute a pleasing textural effect to the work. In Photoshop, this image will be overlaid on the background (bedrock) using the 'Overlay' blend mode and an opacity of 100%.

Mist backgroundMist background—Lake Inverell1/1000th @ f11 & 600mm ISO 400

Image 3: A sandstone wall with remnants of applied paint at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. This image, too, was chosen for its textural quality and its vertical bars of colour that can resonate with the verticals of the trees in the dune photograph. It will be placed under the mist image in the Photoshop layer stack and blended at an opacity of 100% using the 'Soft light' blend mode.

(Untitled) Cockatoo IslandSandstone wall at Cockatoo Island—Sydney)1/15th @ f5.6 & 24mm ISO 100 + tripod

Image 4: The bushfire-charred trunk of a eucalypt beside the Macintyre River at Paradise (upstream of Inverell). The characteristics of this image that work for me are: the blackness of the charcoal; the verticals that, again, resonate with the trees in the dune image; the symbolism of fire, that was an important component of land management for the Indigenous people; the tessellated texture as a metaphor for cracked earth, age or withering (of a culture). This image was placed below the Cockatoo Island texture and also blended withe the background dune image using 'Soft light' blend mode and an opacity of 100%.

Burnt tree trunkBurnt tree trunk. Macintyre River—near Inverell1/350th @ f5.6 & 600mm ISO 1600 The finished image: "Dark Point ages"

I wanted to create an image with a sense of history and respectful acknowledgement of a culture that, unfortunately, does not exist today with the richness it once had.  There are no intentional cues in the image that attribute blame or value judgement. It's an expression of the ideas that have occurred to me. The viewer will find their own meaning...or nothing.

(Untitled)Dark Point agesDune study at Dark Point, Myall Lakes National Park.

I would photograph an idea rather than an object, a dream rather than an idea — Man Ray (1890-1976)

]]> (wowfactorpix) Photoshop concepts ideas imagined vision processing |16L.50 Thu, 15 Dec 2016 11:33:38 GMT
Myall Creek Part 2 Responding to an awakening prompted by reading Mark Tedeschi's book 'Murder at Myall Creek—The trial that defined a nation' (see Myall Creek Part 1), I stopped, en route to Gilgandra, for the first time in my life at the site of the Myall Creek massacre to pay my respects and contemplate the possibility of a photographic project that could represent a personal step towards reconciliation.

It was 40°. The middle of the day. A hot wind. The bush was resting and a few apostle birds scolded our intrusion. Knowing what had occurred there, I couldn't help but feel the solemnity.

Ruby and I took the Serpent Walk through the dry woodland, stopping at each plaque on the way to read the information that informed us of the background circumstances and events leading up to the atrocity.

We arrived at the memorial granite boulder that had been transported from 60 kilometres away. Placing my camera bag on the ground, I stood for a minute or two in contemplation before scanning the scene and mulling over ideas for recording it respectfully. A few crucifixes decorated with Indigenous artwork had been placed near the base of the boulder amongst stones. I spent about half and hour photographing the memorial as I had found it, left a comment and signature in the visitor's book and we departed.

I will be back. There is more that I would like to do in that place; work that I hope will show respect and have meaning.

Soundtrack: March of remembrance by Brett Michael Wiesman & Josquin de Pres  (Licenced from

]]> (wowfactorpix) black history indigenous reconciliation remembrance respect white |467.16L Sun, 11 Dec 2016 11:10:10 GMT
Myall Creek Part 1 A title in a book shop stings my conscience and provokes a photographic project.
A book review. Unfinished business. A personal step toward reconciliation.

Ruby gave me a gift voucher to a local bookshop in Port Macquarie for my 61st birthday. I went into town to check out the selection of photography-related books available. As I walked an aisle between rows of shelves the bold title of a paperback seized my focus and pricked my white conscience. It spoke of my country, the district where I was born and grew up, and an event that I had heard of but never taken the time to learn about. How many times in my life had I driven between Inverell and Bingara and crossed the bridge over the intermittent creek that gave the atrocity its name? Dozens if not scores. Not once had I sacrificed time to stop and contemplate the momentous event in Australia's history and pay my respect.

The Myall Creek Massacre

(Untitled)MURDER AT MYALL CREEKThe trial that defined a nation

Murder at Myall Creek—The trial that defined a nation by Mark Tedeschi QC, Simon & Schuster 2016—gripped me with a mixture of intrigue and guilt. I picked it up and read the cover notes, was torn between taking it or completing my mission to the photography section and eventually settled on 'later'—I would check it out later. I replaced the book and continued to the 'Photography' shelves where I pored over a few titles before selecting two and proceeding to the checkout: Photography Masterclass—Creative Techniques of 100 Great Photographers by Paul Lower, Thames & Hudson 2016; and PHOTOGRAPHY—The Whole Story edited by Juliet Hacket, Thames & Hudson 2012.

That night, a Thursday, I slept fitfully...Myall Creek on my mind, and the knowledge that I would drive that road in three days time. We would travel to Inverell on Friday to visit Ruby's mother and sister before Christmas and on to Gilgandra on Sunday where our son, Dylan, is a history teacher (including Aboriginal Studies) at Gilgandra High School. I had been invited to be the guest speaker at the school's 2016 D.A.M.E. (Drama, Art, and Music Education) awards night. 

A deeply moving account of a massacre that is a stain on our nation's soul—and the prosecutor who brought the perpetrators to justice — Peter FitzSimons

On Friday, I was self-compelled to go back into town and purchase Mark Tedeschi's book before we left for Inverell. I started reading it on the weekend and couldn't put it down. On Sunday, en route to Gilgandra in a 40 degree heat wave, we turned off the road after crossing Myall Creek and took the Serpent Walk, reading each of the plaques set in granite stones along the way to the main memorial, a granite boulder at the site of the massacre.

Myall Creek Massacre MemorialMyall Creek Massacre Memorial4 December 2016 Presumably, someone has disagreed with the word 'murdered'. That saddens me and stirs my feelings of inherited guilt by racial association with the perpetrators and the majority of the colonial white society that opposed calling them to account. It was an unprovoked attack on dispossessed, innocent and peaceful people.

Using Mark Tedeschi's excellent and thorough book as a reference, I have put together a condensed and paraphrased account of the massacre. I follow Tedeschi's lead in using the following terms that were in common use at the time of the event (not meaning any disrespect to modern Indigenous people who prefer that term): aborigines, aboriginal, blacks, and whites.

On 10th June 1838, a group of eleven white men—ten ex-convicts and assigned convicts (protestants and catholics) led by John Fleming, a free man and station manager from a nearby property called Mungie Bundie Station—rode onto Myall Creek Station, itself a tract of land appropriated by a squatter named Henry Dangar and tended at the time by: two convicts—a stockman, Charles Kilmeister, 23, from Bristol, and hut-keeper, George Anderson, 24, from Middlesex; and two Aborigines—brothers Davy (Yintayintin 18) and Billy (Kwimunga 14) from a Peel River district tribe 100 miles to the south.

The party on horseback, armed with muskets, pistols and swords, and representing a range of squatters in the Big (Gwydir) River district, had been scouring the countryside with the intent of exterminating Aboriginal people in retribution for stock losses and hostilities towards whites. The Aborigines' retaliation for being dispossessed of their land and traditional hunting and gathering resources by squatters and their livestock was natural but of no moral consequence to the colony's Mother Country. Terra Nullius.

Approximately 40 members of the Wirrayaraay tribe (of the Gamilaraay nation) had been peacefully camped for almost five weeks nearby to the station huts after the stockman Charles Kilmeister had urged the station manager William Hobbs to give his permission. Hobbs took pity on the tribe because of their poor condition and acceded. The ten most able-bodied men in the tribe were away cutting bark on a neighbouring squatter's selection on June 10th. This left the remaining thirty or so women, children, and elderly men of the tribe in a vulnerable position. 

There had been no suspicion that the Wirrayaraay were responsible for stock losses or hostility to the whites. Indeed, the leader of the tribe, named 'King Sandy' by white settlers, wore a brass breast plate given to him by the overseer at Byron Plains station, near present-day Inverell, as a mark of his acceptance by whites.  

The Wirrayaraay camp erupted in panic as the marauders burst onto the scene in a gallop. Two young brothers, John and Jimmy, aged about eight, escaped by diving into the creek. Twenty-eight members of the tribe were captured by Fleming's gang.  They were bound serially on a long rope and led away to a ridge half a mile from the huts, and accompanied, ironically, by the stockman Kilmeister who deemed it safer to join the intent gang than resist. The hut keeper George Anderson refused to participate but felt powerless to intervene. He instructed the Peel River Aboriginal boy Davy to surreptitiously follow the gang and their captives to observe from a safe distance. 

The Wirrayaraay were led into a stockyard, untied and surrounded by the horsemen. A young woman named Heppita was kept aside. Fleming fired two shots into the air detonating mayhem. No further shots were fired. The terrified Aborigines were slaughtered with swords and trampled under hooves. Apart from the perpetrators, there were only two eyewitnesses to the murders: young Davy, hiding behind a tree nearby, and Heppita who had, incidentally, befriended and consorted with hut keeper George Anderson during the preceding weeks. Heppita had been 'saved' by Fleming for the sexual gratification of his party.

At the conclusion of the slaughter, Fleming directed that the bodies be decapitated, dismembered, placed in a heap, covered with dead wood and burnt. The gang camped in the bush that evening, drinking, carousing and violating Heppita. 

The hut keeper George Anderson was horrified and filled with remorse when Davy returned and told him what had happened. He ordered Davy to run to the neighbouring property, Newton's Run, to tell the absent, able-bodied Wirrayaraay men that they were in grave danger; Fleming's party would no doubt resume their hunt the next day. At 10pm the Wirrayaraay men reached Anderson's hut to learn that their families had been killed. Anderson exhorted them to leave immediately for their own safety. The remaining Wirrayaraay walked 25 miles through the night to McIntyre's Station (near present day Inverell). 

On page 107 of his book, Mark Tedeschi writes, "Some days later, between thirty and forty Aborigines, possibly including some of the ten or so younger [Wirrayaraay] men, two women and three children who had fled from Myall Creek Station, were murdered at McIntyre's Station, their bodies also cast onto a large open fire. Many suspected that the later murders were committed by the same stockmen who had perpetrated the Myall Creek Massacre."

The next day, Monday 11 June, Fleming and his band of killers rode the 16 miles to Newton's Run to hunt down the remaining Wirrayaraay men only to find that they had vanished. Heppita was still with the marauders but was never seen again after they left Newton's Run that day. On Tuesday 12 June, Fleming's gang returned to Myall Creek, still searching for the Wirrayaraay men. Discovering that the fire had not properly burnt the bodies, Fleming instructed Kilmeister to tend it until the job was done. Kilmeister's lack of diligence was to prove piquant in his and his cohort's taste of justice months later.

The fire at Myall Creek that was supposed to reduce the dismembered bodies to anonymous ashes didn't go the distance and left evidence that proved crucial when eleven of the twelve perpetrators were captured and put on trial. The murderous gang's leader, John Fleming, was never brought to justice, having escaped to Moreton Bay during a tenacious investigation conducted by Police Magistrate Captain Edward Denny Day who was based in Muswellbrook. Captain Day caught the other 11 men in the raiding party and walked them 200 miles in chains to custody in Muswellbrook. They were brought to trial in the Supreme Court in Sydney on 15th November 1838, 350 miles and 158 days separated from the scene of the crime. 

Mark Tedeschi's book is a forensic investigation of events surrounding the Myall Creek Massacre as well as an enlightening account of judicial, political and social forces in play in the colony of New South Wales before, during and after the event. But it's not just about the massacre. In large measure, it's a celebration of the achievements of John Hubert Plunkett, the New South Wales Attorney General—from 1832-1856—who prosecuted the case against the murderers, who contributed enormously to political and legal reforms in the colony, and who played key roles in the establishment of some of Australia's finest institutions, including the University of Sydney, St Vincents Hospital, and an education system where denominational and state schools are both funded by the government. Although a devout Irish Catholic, he was a champion of secularism in government and public institutions.

Mark Tedeschi describes John Hubert Plunkett as "...a man with an abiding hatred of bigotry and injustice and a belief in the equality of all men under the law..."

In his homeland, Plunkett had known religious persecution and oppression at the hands of the English, yet he prosecuted his career with great respect for the Westminster system of government and the spirit (if not the denomination!) of English law that, underpinned by a protestant Christian belief system, asserted the equality of all men, black or white, and regardless of religious affiliation, in the eyes of God. 

Tedeschi (p7) writes, "The injustice of oppression by English overlords had been implanted in the Plunkett family's DNA ever since the time of their illustrious ancestor, Archbishop Oliver Plunket [later Saint Oliver Plunkett], who became the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland in 1669." 


"In 1678, anti-Catholic measures were reintroduced and Archbishop Plunkett was forced to go into hiding. Despite being on the run and having a price on his head, he refused to leave his flock. He was arrested in Dublin in December 1679 and prosecuted for high treason by the English on fabricated evidence."

On 1 July 1681, Archbishop Plunkett was executed—hanged, drawn and quartered, as was the customary, ignominious launchpad into eternity reserved for those convicted of treason.

"Murder at Myall Creek" describes the trials of the murderers in detail and fills me with admiration for the tenacity of John Hubert Plunkett and his brilliance as a legal practitioner, securing the death penalty for seven of the perpetrators in a second trial after all had been found 'not guilty' in the first trial. He must have been gutted when the first verdict was delivered, but, thinking on his feet when the judge asked was there any reason why the eleven accused should not be released, he had the wit to call for an immediate retrial based on some new evidence that he would bring. You need to read the book yourself to appreciate the complexity of the circumstances and the stature of the man. The judicial labyrinth surrounding the trials is intriguing to a layman like me. Plunkett stood with few allies to resist opposition to the trials by most of the colony's white society and its vested interests, and he resolutely championed the rights of the Aboriginal Australians.

While reading the book I felt ashamed of my origins (despite having no direct lineage with any of the perpetrators or squatters) and experienced a profound empathy for the dispossessed First Australians. Many things described in Mark Tedeschi's book pricked my social justice conscience.

Here's an example. The evidence of the young Peel River Aborigine, Davy (an eyewitness to the crime) was unable to be tendered in the Supreme Court trial because it was inadmissible for him, a non-Christian, to swear an oath on the bible to tell the truth! I cringe at the injustice of that alone. I wonder how many Christians, or 'Christians', down through the ages have lied under oath?

Unfinished business

The subtitle of this blog post includes the phrases 'Unfinished business' and 'A personal step toward reconciliation'. I'm a photographer and I use photography to express myself. Something is compelling me to express my feelings about the Myall Creek Massacre visually. Is it inherited guilt? I don't know. I also don't know what visual form my expression will take, other than it being photographic in origin, but I'm open to my heart leading me where it will. In my next blog post Myall Creek Part 2, I'll share with you some preliminary, 'sketch' images that I made last Sunday while at the site of the massacre. They are the first steps on a journey that I hope will introduce me to some of the Indigenous descendants of the Wirrayaraay tribe, who I hope will empathise with my desire to collaborate and visualise and realise some art that can represent a tangible, personal step towards reconciliation. If that comes about it can be Myall Creek Part 3.

I called my sister Colleen who was present at the dedication and unveiling of the Myall Creek Massacre Memorial on June 10, 2000. I knew that she had been deeply moved by the experience and had written a poem.

"I've never experienced anything like it, Rob. Shared sadness for the past and hope for the future. There was a smoking ceremony, clap sticks and a didgeridoo. It was haunting. I was in a trance. I'll never forget it."

We Remember Them

We gathered on a clouded day in June
To meet, reflect and pray...
We shared the pain and sorrow...
We began the journey toward tomorrow.

From far and wide the people came
They shared a common need...
To show sorrow for dark days past,
Sadness shared, to show we care.

We walked to the lonely hilltop
United in our belief
That each small step brings us closer
To the goal we do expect.

This was a walk of mourning
And of sharing......just our time,
It mattered, was uplifting
As we grew in thought and mind.

We came upon the Serpent path
The ground a hue of red...
We remembered this same day—long past,
On sacred ground, we tread.

We walked together, young and old
Past plaques from where the truth unfolds
Of happenings long ago, this day,
We hang our heads, we cry, we pray.

The rock upon the hill is vast
It overlooks the place below
Where women, children, men did die...
So long ago......against a darkening sky.

Candles burning, green and red,
To show new mourn the dead.
Both black and white, descendants there
Hold hands, embrace, to show they care.

We share new meaning with this place
We bow our heads in silence......
Feel Spirit presence overhead,

Ngiyani winangay ganunga
(We Remember Them)


Written by Colleen (nee Smith) Elliott to pay homage to the
twenty eight Aboriginal men, women and children who were
brutally massacred by white men late on the afternoon of
June 10, 1838, at Myall Creek NSW.




]]> (wowfactorpix) Aborigines First Australians history injustice justice massacre respect shame |444.16L Fri, 09 Dec 2016 02:15:03 GMT
Werrikimbe blur I like playing with intentional camera movement (ICM) to 'abstractify' natural landscapes. The technique simplifies a complex scene and imbues a lyrical quality. Well, that's at its best. At its worst, the technique creates a mess ripe for the <delete> key!

This post describes the basics of my technique supported with a slideshow of a few images captured recently at Werrikimbe National Park. Below the slideshow I give a nod to some wonderful ICM images created by my friend Robyn Mussett—three from Werrikimbe and one from Western Australia.


Generally, instantaneous photographs are captured with shutter durations of 1/30th of a second or shorter, mostly shorter. ICM photography involves moving the camera, to create blur and/or erratic traces of the scene, while the shutter is open. In my practice, this means using shutter durations of, say, more than a half (½) second up to several seconds or even minutes. While the shutter is open, the camera can be: panned (sweeping the scene from side to side; tilted (vertically 'panned'), panned and tilted, vibrated, jiggled, or waved erratically to produce combinations of vectors in the final image. You can try whatever takes your fancy and enjoy the process of discovery. No rules.

The camera can be handheld or steadied, to an extent, with a tripod. How do you get ICM when a tripod is used? One method is to lift one of the tripod's legs and pivot on the other two during the exposure.

I've made exposures with the camera fixed on the tripod for a portion of the exposure and then snatched off (with the aid of a quick-release plate on the tripod head) and moved organically with my muscle work for the remainder of the exposure. Why do I do that? To have a recognisable, focused ghost of the scene visible in the final image, suffused with blurred traces of it. 

Tree fernTree fern1.5s @ f4.5 & 270mm ISO 100. Camera held still for half of the exposure then tilted and jiggled.

If I want to achieve smooth pans, or tilts, I'll mount a fluid video head on my tripod. I used the fluid head to photograph the trees at long range (800m) in the slideshow, tilting the camera with the video head's handle. Some of the other images were created with handheld ICM.

The appeal of ICM

Just about anything is possible in post-production using software like Photoshop. Granted. There are various filters that can produce blur effects. However, these algorithm-based effects don't look good to my eye. They are computer generated. They don't look real. They look 'perfect'—mechanical. On the other hand, the organic movement controlled by the human hand is capricious and I believe that makes for a more artistic result. No two images are the same. It's impossible to perfectly replicate an effect from one exposure to the next, particularly as I age.

The slideshow repeats. After it starts you can intervene and access controls (e.g. <pause>) by mousing over it. The soundtrack is "Firefly", by Ali Handal, one of the free soundtracks available to Zenfolio subscribers.


Images by Robyn Mussett
Robyn has a physical disability, a tremor, that requires her to use fast shutter speeds or a tripod for most of her photography. She's a wonderful photographer with a sensitive eye. I learn about subtlety, grace and nuance by studying her photographs and the way she works in the field. Robyn has turned her disability into an asset for ICM imagery and approaches her work with tenacity. There's something to be learned from that by photographers of all abilities.

Robyn at workIntentional Camera Movement (ICM).

Click on any of Robyn's images to link to that image on her website.

BELOW: "Along Fenwicks Road" by Robyn Mussett    4s @ f22 & 62mm ISO 1000

BELOW: "Across the creek" by Robyn Mussett    4s @ f22 & 84mm ISO 100

BELOW: "Gold tipped" by Robyn Mussett    4s @ f18 & 108mm ISO 100

BELOW: "Gimlet Forest" by Robyn Mussett    1/6th @ f10 & 164mm ISO 200 Shot from a moving vehicle

"It's a hit and miss affair, Rob. Every now and then the experimentation produces a sublime result—part serendipity, part giving yourself the chance to capture something amazing. Casting your net. This is such an image. I think that the highest compliment one photographer can pay to another is to say something like..."I'd be rapt if this was mine. Forget what the 'experts' say, this moves me." That's how I feel about this image; such a wonderful and evocative story about the mystique of Australian bushland. ®" Comment posted on Robyn's site.

Painting from nature is not copying the object, it is realising one's sensations — Paul Cezanne

]]> (wowfactorpix) Australia ICM bushland intentional camera movement landscapes national parks trees |35 Tue, 29 Nov 2016 14:30:00 GMT
Manifesto Three months ago, my friend and mentor, Emeritus Professor Des Crawley, delivered a presentation titled "My story and My Style—The relationship between photographic style and ways of seeing" to members of Port Macquarie Panthers Photographic Club.

As usual, Des's presentation was enlightening and inspiring.

"The true photographer does not compromise when it comes to honing and shaping their personal style. Why? Because it will be your visual legacy."

"Tonight...[after this presentation] are to sit down and to write, for yourself...why you make photographs. Why do you do it?...<a long Des pause>...That's why I do it...[a slide of of text appears on the screen]. I've written it. It's important to me. That is my manifesto...This is what I do. I will defend this......because it's what I value...You owe it to yourself. Sit down and you say 'I make photographs because...'"

I have been tardy with my homework. It's now three months past the deadline—three months since Des exhorted his audience to do this thing...for themselves. But I have done it now. Today is my 61st birthday and my gift to myself is to publish my own manifesto, a declaration of the things that drive my passion for photography. My mission statement.

It's not a marketing exercise...some puffed up document to impress others or sell something. It's a document that is me talking to myself; me urging myself to stay the course; a document to read again and again when the going gets tough or I experience self doubt. 

If my ideas change over time, I will modify my manifesto. It's a living document to keep me on song for the rest of my productive life.

I share it with you for what it's worth. If you have a creative passion, perhaps it will inspire you to give yourself a written pep talk.

An artist manifestoA document to keep me focused.

I speak only of myself since I do not wish to convince, I have no right to drag others into my river, I oblige no one to follow me and everybody practices his art in his own way — Tristan Tzara "Dada Manifesto 1918”
The only art I'll ever study is stuff that I can steal from — David Bowie 1947-2016
What is originality? Undetected plagiarism — William Ralph Inge 1860-1954

]]> (wowfactorpix) essence manifesto motivation passion philosophy principles reasons |74 Sun, 27 Nov 2016 14:00:00 GMT
Happy birthday, Maureen! Maureen and Kathleen were born in 1926 and share an Irish Catholic heritage. They met and became friends in 1942 at sixteen years of age when working at the Department of Public Works in Sydney. Marrying the loves of their lives, each raised six children. Throughout the years, through thick and thin, their friendship has endured; sharing the joys of raising their own families, and grief when they lost their soul mates.

For most of their friendship they've been separated by distance except for brief visits; Maureen living in Sydney, and Kathleen in Inverell in northern NSW. Kathleen now lives in Port Macquarie in a retirement village and Maureen lives in a nursing home in Parramatta. It's been more than a decade since they've seen each other face to face. Phone conversations have been regular.

On one of my visits to see my mother, Kathleen, she produced an envelope that had arrived in the mail a few days earlier. It was an invitation to a small gathering to celebrate Maureen's 90th birthday. We celebrated Kathleen's 90th in March and it was not possible for Maureen to be there other than in spirit.

"I'd love to see her again but...", Mum began...

"You are going! We will make it happen," I was adamant. For twelve months I'd been saying to Mum, "If you ever want to go down to see Maureen, just say the word and we will make it happen".

And so we did, last Sunday. We had decided to make it a surprise. Mum said to Maureen's daughter, "Let's not tell Maureen...just in case. At our age you never know."

What a joy to see these grand old friends rejoicing in each other's company once again. What more reward could a son want than to see the happiness.

I've put together a slideshow to celebrate Maureen's birthday (it's today) and her 74 years of friendship with my mother. Naturally, it will be of most interest to our own families, however, photographers may be able to take something away from the viewing that will give them ideas for documenting their own family milestones before opportunities are lost. 

Happy birthday, Maureen! God bless.

Notes for photographers
The show runs for 4m 15s and contains two soundtracks licenced from "Inspiration Hill" by Brian Keane; and "Only You" by Emerson & Emilio Palame.

My instructions to Maureen and Kathleen before I began to photograph were simple—"Please ignore me. Forget that I am here. I will get what I can get."

I photographed with a telephoto zoom lens at its maximum aperture of f2.8 and the camera set to ISO 800 . No flash. When we visited Maureen in her room on Monday morning before we left Sydney, I pulled back the curtain to exploit window light. They reminisced and chatted with my wife, Ruby. The final four images say it all for me.

True friends are always together in spirit. (Anne Shirley) — L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

]]> (wowfactorpix) friends loyalty nonagenarians parents |93 Wed, 23 Nov 2016 14:00:00 GMT
Did I do that? Recently I photographed along the Googik Track (pronounced Goojick) with some friends from our photographic club. We have a personal interest group (PIG) concerned with nature photography.

Something interesting happened.

I brought back some images that I was pleased with but which did not surprise me. They are the sort of thing I'm attracted to and I visualised a way of processing them on my computer at the time I photographed them in the field.

The image below, Melaleuca rising, is an example. I photographed it with a fisheye lens pointed vertically. I like the curvature imposed on the trunks and the enclosing dynamic of the branches against the sky. 

I added a passing raptor to the patch of sky and examined the result critically. Some will be surprised to learn that I didn't like it and deleted it.

Viewing the image gives me a feeling of being a small creature in the forest. The complexity of the dendritic network is a metaphor for the complexity of an ecosystem and how the smallest of things, like a mite on a leaf high in the canopy, are linked back to the earth. The plants reach to the source of earth's energy. They appear as if in orbit.

(Untitled)Melaleuca rising1/1000th @ f5.6 & 16mm ISO 200

I also brought back some images that were unusual in that I felt they didn't reflect my usual style. I created them by using intentional camera movement. There's nothing unusual about that for me. I also used neutral density filters to prolong the exposure (shutter duration) so that the intentional camera movement could weave its magic. There's also nothing unusual about that for me—it's common practice.

So what is it about the image below that had me asking myself, "Did I really make that?"

Googik idyllGoogik idyll2s @ f22 & 600mm ISO 200

These are the things that have occurred to me:

  • Few of my images are dominated by these hues; green and blue/violet. I'm more of an earthy beige type!
  • It looks like a designer print produced by an artist's brief and minimal brush strokes
  • I think that it has been influenced by the way some of my female photographer friends see the world. And that's a good thing. To me it feels like a work produced by a woman rather than that of a bloke. Perhaps its simply the flowers.

The camera was mounted on a video fluid head on my tripod. This allows me to perform a smooth tilt (vertical pan) while the shutter is open. I could see from the camera's information readout that the exposure would be about two seconds.  I opened the shutter and counted "One and..." while keeping the camera still, then "...two and" while tilting and jiggling the fluid head's handle.

The initial pause during the exposure allows the lilies to be rendered distinctly (not too blurred) and the jittery tilt during the latter part of the exposure has introduced the ethereal streaking and some squiggles from specular highlights.

This kind of photography is hit and miss. You make a lot of exposures and you get a lot of crap. It's worth it, though, when an occasional image stands above the crowd and you think "Yes, I like that!"


]]> (wowfactorpix) breaking the mould colours design intentional camera movement seeing new surprises techniques |71 Wed, 23 Nov 2016 04:28:53 GMT
Werrikimbe kangaroo suite  

Adobe Photoshop has been a part of my photographic practice since 1999. Before that, I used Corel PhotoPaint for nine years. I've used Adobe Lightroom since version 1 back in 2007. Lightroom is a low cost tool that I believe is the best solution for people new to digital photography who want to learn how to process their images without the daunting learning curve imposed by Photoshop. Here's a brief example of how an image captured by the camera can be processed in different ways with a few adjustments in Lightroom.

<This is not a paid advertisement for Adobe's product>

The six images in this slideshow were created using Lightroom's slideshow function.

Questions? Please post in comments below. ®

]]> (wowfactorpix) Lightroom kangaroos national parks processing |33 Fri, 18 Nov 2016 19:28:02 GMT
The Exkoskinator & The Optical Delusion A few members of the Port Macquarie Panthers Photographic Club spent the weekend at Werrikimbe National Park. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and photography...and weather. As President Tom said, "We had a veritable cornucopia of weather." Sunshine, rain, storms, wind, mist, and fog.

On Saturday night an electrical storm passed through on its way to the Macquarie Coast. Photographers lined up on the east-facing end of the verandah of our accommodation with their tripods and tried their hands at capturing lightning. It reminded me of the whoops of children at Luna Park when impressive flashes of lightning lit up the sky and rolling thunder followed. If someone managed to catch the bolt there were shouts of joy. Good fun. Geoff, one of our senior members at 81 years of age, captured his first ever photograph of lightning. How cool is that!

Werrikimbe storm timelapseMultiple still images compiled into a timelapse sequence in Adobe Premiere Pro.

After the storm passed, we settled for a while to enjoy conversation and beverages by moonlight. By and by, weary people drifted off to their bunks or tents and the party was reduced to two souls: Mr Timo and Mr Rob—a seasoned duo of photoexpeditionists.

The photoexpeditionistsThe PhotoexpeditionistsSundown at Coolah Tops National Park. May 2012. 0.7s @ f5.6 & 18mm ISO 100 + self-timer

It was about 11PM when we decided to abandon the comfort of our camp chairs and go down to the creek (at the source of the Hastings River) and play with our torches and cameras.

The moon was gibbous and just a few days shy of the November super moon. Thanks to the rain, mist rose from the creek and shrouded the reedbeds. A few moths fluttered. With the moonlight as a backdrop, the scene looked eerie. Our torch beams raked the vapour like Star Wars lasersabres as we painted reeds and cobwebs for our cameras.

In the spotlightIn the spotlightA spider web draped between reed stems is painted with torchlight.
1/15s @ f5.6 & 20mm + light painting

Then I had an idea. What made the idea viable was a good mate who could help me make it happen. And here it is...

The ExkoskinatorThe ExkoskinatorMy mate Timo plays with his lasersabre in the mist. 15s @ f4 & 16mm ISO 400 + light painting

With that shot in the bag we were satisfied and went back to camp to enjoy a cocktail nightcap (Bundy OP rum and Schnapps) that we invented and have called The Optical Delusion. We hit the swags at 01:15 to grab a scant four hours of sleep before the morning photo shoot. Life is good.

The early morning has gold in its mouth — Benjamin Franklin


]]> (wowfactorpix) friends imagination light painting mist photographers |34 Thu, 17 Nov 2016 10:49:44 GMT
Caught in crossfire With friends, Robyn and Timo, I photographed at nighttime in Werrikimbe National Park last Thursday night. At this spot, Robyn kindly attended both of our cameras on tripods and triggered the shutters when I signaled that I was in position off to stage left, ready to paint the trees with torchlight. As I was moving into position, Timo arrived on the scene, flushing a kangaroo into the field of view. I was chuffed when I turned on my torch and saw the kangaroo sitting up and looking towards the camera. Serendipity strikes!

Caught in crossfireCaught in crossfireAn eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) is caught in torchlight as I paint a night scene at Werrikimbe National Park. 30s @ f4 & 14mm ISO 400 + light painting

What people call serendipity sometimes is just having your eyes open — Jose Manuel Barroso
There is a fine line between serendipity and stalking! — David Coleman

]]> (wowfactorpix) Australia bushland camera techniques kangaroos light painting |29 Wed, 16 Nov 2016 21:42:44 GMT
Inexorabilia Recently, while spending a few days photographing in the Port Stephens area with my friends Roy and Des, we visited a scene of defeat of capitalist folly and greed. Mutual friends Denise and Mike had been there before us and had alerted us to the photographic possibilities. The site was a failed resort development funded by Chinese investors exclusively for Chinese clientele (until the money ran out) at Birubi Point. You can read a Newcastle Herald newspaper article about it here.

What we saw was a scene of Nature. Inexorable forces of wind, time, and sand are showing how Nature is in charge. I'd never been to a site of contemporary ruins. Like many photographers, I'm drawn to the old and weathered—sites with a flavour of olden days or antiquity like Angkor Wat. Such is not the case at Birubi Point. The aborted rise and subsequent fall has occurred in this century, as young as it is.

Drawing on awareness developed with the help of a book called The Practice of Contemplative PhotographySeeing the World with Fresh Eyes, I photographed the location by looking for small stories within the big picture. I forgot to take an establishing shot of the whole scene! The slideshow below contains the images that survived the cut. They have undergone basic processing in Adobe Lightroom. I have given them titles to support the ideas, resemblances, associations, and metaphors that occurred to me as I shot them.

The thing that appealed most to me was obscuring the context of the images to make some of them puzzles.

Note: You can stop the slide show and proceed manually through the images (30) by clicking the left and right arrows that appear at the sides of the images. To watch the show without controls obstructing your view, move your mouse out of the frame area after clicking the play button. 

The slide show Inexorabilia is programmed to auto-repeat.

I created the slideshow images, including the titling and the sand dune background, using the Slideshow function in Lightroom (with the images exported as JPGs). The images were then uploaded to my Zenfolio website and inserted into this blog post. The soundtrack is End of the World, one of the free soundtracks that comes with a Zenfolio account.

As always, I'm happy to answer any questions posted in 'Comments' below. ®

For greed, all nature is too little — Lucius Annaeus Seneca
There's enough on this planet for everyone's needs, but not for everyone's greed — Mahatma Ghandi

]]> (wowfactorpix) buildings burial conceptual photography contemplative photography dunes natural forces ruins seeing |73 Sun, 13 Nov 2016 22:05:05 GMT
Casuarina dancing A recent Picture Postcard (Discovery and camera seeing) described how the view through a camera lens can show us something that cannot be seen with the naked eye. It wasn't describing how a long telephoto lens can bring distant objects closer, or how a macro lens can give us an extreme close-up view of something (these things are true, of course), but how the limited depth of field of a telephoto lens used with a wide open aperture can reveal an object in focus against an abstracted background or foreground.

Such was my discovery of a casuarina ballerina... 

Casuarina dancingThis little act appeared while I was scanning the bushland with a long lens and shallow depth-of-field. Kookaburra added.

If you see everything through the lens, you are constantly composing pictures. I think in pictures; I don't think in text — Alison Jackson
A goal gives you the lens to see the future with clearer vision — J.R. Rim
I've always had the utmost respect and awe of what the lens can do and what a director can do with just a camera move — Matthew Gray Gubler

]]> (wowfactorpix) breeze casuarinas close-ups haiku poetry |40 Mon, 07 Nov 2016 23:23:18 GMT
Zenith Beach nocturne Continuing my experiments orchestrating hardware and software technologies with wetware, here is a sketchbook exposé of an evening of multiple exposures and more learnings that will lead to refinement of a technique.

With my friends, Des and Roy, I was on Zenith Beach near Port Stephens (I have previously documented some of the activity in the blog post Filters and child's play).

A technique I've been exploring lately involves multiple exposures from the same tripod setting (without altering composition) during changing light conditions. I started making exposures after sunset and continued through dusk and into the starry night. My intent was to make a blended composite image that used the best (most interesting) parts of a selection of images.

Four images (below) made the shortlist from a set of 21. In this situation I'm looking for three characteristics in the scene photographed:

  1. A mix of static elements (e.g. rocks, tree trunks) and moving elements (e.g. water, branches) that can be rendered as motion blurred using long exposures.
  2. Changing light, such as the transition from daylight to dark.
  3. A pleasing composition.

Mouse *over the images below for relevant information about each. Notice how the dynamic range (contrast) of the images diminishes as the light in the sky fades away into the night.

*NOTE: Mousing over any images in my blog posts will reveal more information.

OBJECTIVE: Eliminate (mask out) the bright sky from the finished work, to reveal the stars, yet preserve the windblown blur in the vegetation...

(Untitled)Time: 18:4215s @ f4 & 164mm ISO 100 + 6 stops ND filter (Untitled)Time: 18:4810s @ f4 & 164mm ISO 200 + 6 stops ND filter
(Untitled)Time: 19:1130s @ f4 & 164mm ISO 200 + light painting (Untitled)Time: 19:1330s @ f4 & 164mm ISO 200 + light painting

...using a wetware enhanced version of Photoshop...

It's OK...only joking!It's OK...only joking!Perhaps a future version of Photoshop will contain these creative enhancements. Smart PSB is the longed for 'Smart Poor Sad Bastard' filter.

Here's a visual summary of the real work performed in Photoshop.

CompositingCompositingSummary of editing performed in Photoshop to blend four images.

And this is the result. A technique that is a WIP. Got a question or need clarification? Please use the comments section below.

(Untitled)Zenith Beach nocturneComposite of four exposures made under differing light and filter regimes over 30 minutes.

Yes, I sold buttons to earn a living, but I took pictures to keep on living. Pictures are my life—as necessary as eating or breathing— Alfred Eisenstaedt

]]> (wowfactorpix) Photoshop dusk experimentation filters imagination multiple exposures |44 Sun, 06 Nov 2016 01:56:12 GMT
A Bluetooth bluebird in my pocket When I purchased my Windows smartphone a couple of years ago, Telstra gave me a free Bluetooth external speaker as a bonus. I wondered, 'What use will that be to me?' I prefer to listen to music and radio through earbuds.

Last week I hatched a plan: 'Play bird song through it while I'm out photographing. Maybe it will attract and keep birds within range of my lens for longer.' I had some video of a superb fairy-wren captured in the dune at Lighthouse Beach a couple of weeks ago. Editing it in Adobe Audition, I removed the sound of the surf and other background noise to produce a purer recording of the birdsong. Converted to an MP3 file it now resides on my smartphone along with kookaburras, magpies, black cockatoos and butcherbirds.

This morning I put the plan into action. It worked! As I walked along the foredune I came within range of four fairy-wren territories, and on each occasion the residents came closer and stayed longer, puzzled by the sound of the interloper with the tripod. With the birdsong playing through the Bluetooth speaker in my pocket, I captured many frames of the birds at closer range than I've done before. They came within three metres of me.

I have formed a view that female superb fairy-wrens are like the lionesses in a pride; they seem to do most of the work...when it comes to vocalising. The males hang around looking cool in their blue suede headpieces and calling occasionally. On the other hand, the little ladies are more committed to song and marking their territory with sound.

Team of twoTeam of twoA pair of superb fairy-wrens (<em>Malurus cyaneus</em>) attracted by fairy-wren song played on my smartphone through a Bluetooth connected external speaker. Worked well.

Just as the bird sings or the butterfly soars, because it is his natural characteristic, so the artist works. — Alma Gluck

]]> (wowfactorpix) .mp3 fairy-wrens mimicry no harm done proximity smartphones trickery |105 Thu, 03 Nov 2016 08:19:40 GMT
Filters and child's play [A couple of weeks ago]

Walking past a vehicle from the Bayerische Motoren Werke, I ascended the sandstone steps from the carpark. A man was on the headland with a camera aimed at the lighthouse. His impressive tripod was on the invisible X that marks the spot where most people stand to photograph Tacking Point lighthouse. As usual, I was toting my tripod and attached compact system camera on my shoulder. The sun had risen but was filtered by a blanket of stratus cloud.

"Good morning." I said. "Just passing through or are you a local?

He pressed a couple of buttons on his top-of-the-range DSLR—worth about $9k for the body alone—turned to me and said, "I've been coming here for years. I did a shot of the lighthouse for a job about 20 years ago on Velvia and thought I'd do it again in digital."

Velvia® was a daylight balanced colour reversal (transparency/slide) film from Fujifilm Corporation. I knew of it but had never used it; Kodachrome was my poison when I did work for magazines. In the years when digital photography was coming of age (say the first half decade of the 21st century) I read forum posts from die-hard film photographers asserting that digital would never surpass the quality and resolution of film, and that digital could never emulate the beautiful colours and gradation of Velvia. To some it was the Holy Grail of film for landscape photography. I'll leave it at that...for the moment...except to cough a muffled 'bullshit' a la 'Top Gun'—the movie.

The man fiddled again with camera buttons; checked the composition; said something about exposure. I wondered if he was trying to impress me; the mention of Velvia having established some kind of credential. Was he waiting for me to take the bait and ask for more information? I'd noticed his dismissive glance at my equipment. I'd been measured.

I didn't bite, despite sensing an old schooler's red tie being waved in front of me.

Outside the man's field of vision, a few hundred metres offshore, two dark shapes pierced the surface. Their black bodies arched in unison, with long pectoral fins held out like arrow barbs, and collapsed in slow motion, sending out shockwaves of white foam.

"Humpbacks!" I enthused, pointing to the aftermath.

He turned to the sea and then back to me. "I've got a 500mm lens in the car. I'll go and get it if they keep that up."

I wished the man good luck and headed off on the next leg of my walk, down the steps and past the bimmer encasing the 500mm lens.

'You'll need good luck,' I mused, '500 is never going to be enough at that range. But you just had to tell me, eh? Not that you'd know it, I've got the equivalent of 840 on my shoulder...and even that is not enough!'  

Some photographers feel the need to establish gear pecking order. I won't engage on the subject of 1apparatusmanship. I'm more interested in what is produced than the tools used. Pictures are a better indicator of a photographer's 2wetware credentials than the hardware employed.

1 With just a couple of exceptions that I can recall, apparatusmanship is a gender-specific affliction, a bloke thing. Apparatuswomanship? Nah, I don't think it's a thing. Most women don't care about it, nor should they. They're more attuned to wetware.

2 wetware is brainpower, insight, contemplation, reflection, imagination, synaptic plasticity...creativity—the most important tools of the artist.
[A couple of weeks later]

Roy parked his car and we (Roy, Des, and I) got out and headed along the sandy path to Zenith Beach with our cameras. Friends with shared interest in imagery, learning and teaching, we had converged on Port Stephens for a couple of days of fellowship and photography. It was new geography to all of us and we were feeling our way, scouting locations for day and night time work. The sun was rising. The tide was high and would be again in about 12 hours at dusk. The southern end of the beach looked promising for late afternoon work and some play with artificial light sources at night. We each did our own thing for the morning session and then left with a plan to be back on the beach at 1800.

Arriving back at Roy's car, we discovered that another photographer had just arrived. He was taking a camera with a long lens out of the back of his BMW. I measured it at 300 with mental callipers. We got to chatting. My penny dropped, 'Mr Velvia 500 has a 300 too. As you do.'

"Didn't I see you a couple of weeks ago at Port Macquarie?" I asked.

He looked at me, paused, recognised and said, "Yeah!"

Out came the smartphone. 'Here we go!' blipped in my brain.

"This is the one I got of the lighthouse. Beautiful clouds. And here are some surf shots I got around here (Port Stephens) yesterday. A couple of double exposures in the camera, and some straight shots. I don't go in for all that filter bullshit, making the water look like a smoke machine...and..."

​And so on. The red old school tie was waving in my face again. Again I behaved myself. I assumed his scorn was aimed at neutral density filters that allow long exposures in bright light, with the potential to reveal the movement patterns of water. I like 'em. My friend Mr Beaujangles calls the effect "schwoomy water" (I don't think Beaujangles likes the effect either, but we're mates and we understand each other).

Soon enough, thankfully, we bid Mr Bullshit Filter a good day and were on our way. If Mr Bullshit Filter thought he was talking to fellow old school luddites with similar prejudices—our ages range from 60 to 76—he was wrong. As a trio, I think I can say we're progressive, inquisitive, experimental, and prone to taking the mickey out of each other trading banter. The​ bullshit filter encounter gave us plenty of fodder for the remainder of our sojourn.

​So what?

​Why am I writing about these encounters? My aim is to encourage photographers to be free spirits and try new things as a pathway to continuous learning. Ignore the naysayings of old schoolers or 'upmanship of photographers with GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). Here are some counterthoughts to those expressed by Mr Bullshit Filter.

Velvia. I call it the most dishonest film of all time, and my reaction is akin to choking on a sandwich when I hear old schoolers extol its virtues and in the next breath decry modern techniques as dishonest or cheating (e.g. software and/or hardware filters to enhance imagery). Velvia is the wannabe precursor to Photoshop in the image enhancement stakes. The extreme colour saturation afforded by Velvia is not a holier form of manipulation than Photoshop. Anything Velvia could do Photoshop can do better (in skilled and tastefully restrained hands)...and then some.

Long ago I stopped buying how to​ books on photography (I now prefer to read about photographers, their work and philosophies). Below is an excerpt from a how to​ in my collection. How's this for sanctimony...?

"The colours and nuances of natural light are so various that it seems almost criminal to alter them in any way, so I have not used filters for the images in this book (save for a skylight 1B and the occasional polarizer)."

Photographing Changing Light-A Guide for Landscape Photographers
Ken Scott ​Photographers' Institute Press 2004

Oh, so some filters are holier than those miscreant bullshit software filters? The hypocrisy of the quote above becomes evident when one turns the pages and reviews images and captions. The author used Velvia and other high saturation [untruthful] emulsions.


Some analogue old schoolers decry the digital darkroom because they haven't risen (or won't rise) to the challenge of learning to use the new technologies. It's the sour grapes principle: if you can't do it (or are jealous of those who can) knock it.

I love the digital darkroom and emerging technologies that open doors for new ways of doing ways of seeing...imagining. In some cases these developments facilitate things that I couldn't dream of doing, or afford to do, when I worked in the analogue paradigm. Digital technologies are liberators. If I can imagine something, there's a fair chance that I can realise it in a visual image (as opposed to a mental image) that I can share with others. How wonderful.

[Later that evening on Zenith Beach]

Roy, Des, and I got some fair mileage out of filter bullshit banter for the rest of the day. In the last hour of sunlight, we were back on the beach photographing and sizing up a rocky and wooded slope at the southern end with a view to some experimentation after dark. A stiff breeze animated the banksias and casuarina branches and I played with some long exposures (thanks to a neutral density bullshit filter) to express their movement juxtaposed against the immobile rocks and trunks of the larger trees. With my camera on a tripod I shot multiple images of the same composition as darkness fell. When it became dark enough to see stars above the treeline I shot more images from the same tripod set. I hope to blend the range of images, bullshit-wise, into something that only the passage of time can reveal. No analogue, in-camera multiple exposure can do that with the same finesse, Mr Bullshit Filter.

Roy and Des experimented with LED lights twirled on a string against the backdrop of rockface and trees. The results were striking and could be imagined as vehicles for aliens. We were playing like kids. Good fun.

Note: Hover over images for details.

Spaceship orbLighting art by Roy. Photo by Des. Double alien orbLighting art by Roy. Photo by Des.

Before we left the beach, I asked Roy and Des if they would indulge me while I tried something with a LED light. No problem. I stood in the dark on the spot marked X in the sand that was the distance at which the lenses had been focussed. Both cameras were set to make 30 second exposures so that was the amount of time available for me to do my thing.

"OK, gents, count me down 3, 2, 1 and open your shutters," I instructed.

"OK. Three, two, one, open."

I worked quickly to write my mirror-reversed image in the air, obscuring the light with one hand, at appropriate points, to avoid spurious tracings of light that would make the whole unintelligible. I doubted that either Roy or Des would be able to make out what I was doing with my fugitive scribblery. It didn't take 30 seconds to complete the work and I ran back to my friends and waited for their cameras to cook the long exposures and display the images on their LCD panels. We laughed like little kids when the message flashed into view, forgetting that we were supposed to be mature, conservative, old school luddites: two retired academics—professors, no less; and one science graduate with honours—the lowest postgraduate lifeform.

HahaIt doesn't take much to amuse me! Image captured by Des Crawley.

On a roll, I tried another message with Des's flashing red LED. A 30 second failure! Due to the on-off nature of the light, the gaps in the letters made the message almost unintelligible.

PHOTODidn't really work, did it? Sans flashing would have been better. Image captured by Des. Never fear, switch the red LED to continuous mode. Another 30 second failure...not enough time to write the whole message. Continuous learning.

BEEF SUSHIWrite faster, Rob! Image by Des Crawley.

"OK, give me one more go. I'll just have to go quicker."

"3, 2, 1, open."

I wrote with urgency and fervour, jumping sideways to the left between each letter to ensure they were legibly spaced, and finishing with a flourishing crossing of a terminal 't'.

Perfect (well almost).

THE ULTIMATE MOTION...and final word on filters. The crossing of the 't' has contaminated the 'll's. Buttshit. Never mind , it still works!

More laughing like school boys as we trooped back to the carpark.

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. — George Bernard Shaw


]]> (wowfactorpix) denial filters hardware luddites old school playtime prejudice software technology wetware |52 Sat, 29 Oct 2016 11:30:10 GMT
Walking with technologies Most mornings I walk from home via suburbia to Tacking Point lighthouse, returning along Lighthouse Beach. It's a four kilometre circuit. Sometimes I've decided, "Nah, won't take the camera and tripod today", relishing the unencumbered stroll...only to regret the pickings missed. I mostly suck it up and shoulder the camera, tripod and a kit bag with extra lenses, a GoPro, and a digital audio recorder. The gear load is about 9 kilos. If I don't need the stability of the tripod (for video work) I go lighter with a monopod.

Via earbuds and my smartphone,  ABC Mid North Coast keeps me amused and informed between clicks—and sometimes annoyed when a newsreader or journo errs with an ill-chosen or clichéd phrase, or mispronunciation like 'vunerable' (sic). Grrrr. If it becomes too much, I can listen to a Richard Fidler podcast or play one of many favourite albums that I have ripped to .mp3 files, such as Paul Simon's 'There Goes Rhymin' Simon'...Kodachrome! I'm wired for sound and communications.

I take these technologies for a walk and for granted. My forebears would have thought them magical.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic — Arthur C Clarke
Here are one morning's takings—7th October 2016.

NABS. Not Another Bloody Sunrise.  At the other end of the day, it's NABS again—Not Another Bloody Sunset. I rarely shoot them, but I always enjoy them.

Anticipation is a good strategy for a photographer. This day I saw the bulging glow of imminent sunrise and set up my tripod and waited. The season was right. I hoped for a breaching humpback as Old Sol came up. No luck. Move on.

Sun  breaks freeWhale-free NABS1/1500th @ f5,6 & 840mm ISO 2000

(Untitled)The brave and the not so braveYoung magpies wait expectantly for me to produce biscuits.

Standing on the headland I scan the ocean for humpback exhalations. There are a few, though too far offshore to be bothered with. A magpie lands near my feet and chortles. I remove the long telephoto lens from the camera and replace it with a wide-angle. Then I fumble in a pocket of the bag and extract the GoPro and a small Gorillapod. Next, I produce a ziplock plastic bag containing old technology cracker biscuits. The magpie's interest heightens. "Here you go, mate". Others arrive. Shadows complete the picture's narrative. <click> Feeding my maggie friendsFeeding my maggie friendsMy shadow gets in on the act. 1/180th @ f5.6 & 14mm ISO 200

I press <record> on the GoPro. It's running at 100 frames per second so that I can have slow motion if I want it in edit.

A few minutes later, cued by something that a mere human doesn't recognise, the magpies suddenly depart, bee-lining to some banksias a few hundred metres away behind The Backwash. I pack the GoPro away knowing that there's nothing remarkable on its 32GB memory card. Some days are diamonds, some are mediocre. Moving on, I twist the long telephoto lens back on to the mirrorless system camera—anticipating other wildlife—and slide a red dot sniper sight into the camera's hot shoe. Armed.

Animal crackersSome young magpies aren't quite sure of my motive.
Reaching the bottom of the staircase and stepping onto Lighthouse Beach, I see that Mr and Mrs Raven are there as usual. Today they're having a domestic over an apple core. I catch the makings of a kung fu kick. I've nicknamed the smaller bird Limpy, noticing days earlier the favoured leg and then, on closer inspection through the powerful lens, the missing claw on a rear toe. "What trauma caused that?", I wonder. Core valuesCore valuesA pair of Australian ravens contest ownership of a discarded apple core. 1/750th @ f5.6 &amp; 840mm ISO 400 ®

'Allo, 'allo!...what's that up ahead. Not the usual flotsam or jetsam. "What's your story, dead Puss?"

<understatement> I'm not a cat lover—apart from true wild types in their natural habitat (tiger, leopard, jaguar and their ilk)—yet I feel a stir of sympathy for this moggie delivered by the tide. The symmetry of its rigor looks surreal; front and rear paws neatly paired as if Puss had been tied to a pole for transport, by two pygmies. Ship's cat or a yachtie's companion? Who knows? I remember a dead muttonbird that I photographed at the same spot a few years ago. Poignancy again.

With the usual parade of early morning walkers on the beach, I feel self-conscious in my act of photographing the corpse; back off with the long lens. Wide aperture to throw the background out of focus. Low viewpoint to include the translucent surf. A slight Dutch tilt.

<click> Move on.

What's your story, Puss?What's your story, Puss?Brought in by last night's tide.

Deer tracks overlaid on sand pockmarked by last night's shower. I've never seen them on the beach, just the signs of their passing. Nocturnal transients.

(Untitled)Rusa tracksRuse deer are common in the Port Macquarie area. They encroach on suburbia under cover of darkness.







I reach the path that will take me through the dunes to Matthew Flinders Drive. It passes through a succession of plant species—spinifex, pigface, acacia, casuarina and banksia among them. The low plants and thickets on the foredune are where the small birds hang out. I pause, listening for twitterings. There he is, a male superb wren in breeding livery. I move quickly; he won't hang around. What a twitcher. Again, a wide aperture helps keep the background under control and I get some images that I know will be malleable with software.

(Untitled)Male superb fairy-wrenDesaturated and selectively recoloured in Lightroom.

I'm almost through the foredune and onto the road as the vegetation thickens. Casuarinas sigh in the sea breeze and plaintive cries herald the approach of yellow-tailed black cockatoos. They'll be into the banksia cones.

I set the tripod for a final scan of the trees in dappled sunlight. It's a lucky dip and I pull a few images that will be handy down the track for compositing projects and presentations. Imagination fodder.

Speaking of fodder, it's time to shoulder the tripod and camera combo and head home for breakfast. So begins another day in retirement.

Depth of field beautySuch images make good backgrounds for presentation slides.

]]> (wowfactorpix) daily exercise photography photowalking routine videography |40 Sun, 23 Oct 2016 05:19:39 GMT
Why photography? When asked to deliver a one hour presentation on photography to a local group of pensioners and superannuants (few, if any, of whom were into photography), I wondered, "How can I do that?" I've presented on the subject many times—at photography clubs and conventions—to committed photographer audiences. My usual approach just wouldn't cut it with people who may not know an aperture from a keyhole or who relate to lenses as bifocals. As for shutters, I knew theirs would close if I started waxing technically.

Then it came to me, "Yes...I'll just tell them what it is about photography that makes me passionate about it". Why I regard photography not as my hobby but as a way of life. Perhaps it will encourage some to think about photography in a new way. And wouldn't it be wonderful if some were inspired to start their own journey.

It went well and I came away with an invitation to speak aain, next time to a Probus club. I plan to create an interactive podcast of my presentation in the future. In the meantime, here are the main takeaway points I made and some images to support them.


1. An outlet for creativity and expression

Photography is arguably the easiest art in which to become technically competent. Once that competence is mastered, the doors are open for devotees to express themselves through imagery. Not just pictures but pictures expressing ideas.

Note: Mouse over the images for more information.

Black signatureBlack signaturePalm print of a Mexican, the black-handed spider monkey 1/125th @ f4 & 600mm ISO 800 ®

2. It's a hybrid art form

Photography is a blend of science and art. I enjoy both sides of the union, but I explained to the audience that the science side (the technical stuff and the equipment) can become an Achilles heel. Many photographers spend more time thinking about, and spending money on, the toys than investing in their visual literacy—the intellectual development that is crucial to becoming an expressive photographer with a personal style.

Couch potatographer "Show us pictures"The Couch PotatographerOne who derives more enjoyment from playing with and comparing gear than making photographs. Generally lacking imagination and talent but well stocked up on ego and brand snobbery.

3. Photography involves problem solving

I could see people in the audience nodding when I said, "Use it or lose it." It's as simple as that; photography exercises my brain. Using a field trip with a friend and his gun dog as a case study, I explained the problems that I dealt with to produce the image below.

QuailburstQuailburstAn English pointer flushes stubble quail as a thunderstorm looms. This is an imagined scene.

​4. It gets me out

Some say that golf is a good walk spoiled. I could argue that photography makes a good walk memorable. Being out and about with a camera feeds my soul and my vision, exercising body and brain.

Look at that!Look at that!Filming "Welcome to The Backwash" for APSCON 2011.

5. It keeps me in

Even when I can't get out, photography gives me stimulating work to do. On a rainy Sunday I constructed the image below from images on file and stuff that I photographed at home that day.

Styx pinnacles nocturneStyx pinnacles nocturneAs homework for a special interest group in my photographic club, I started out doing some indoor (tabletop) photography on a wet Sunday.

6. I can share it

It's never been easier, and less taxing on an audience, to share one's work: personal websites; email; social media; forums. Digital imagery takes up no real-world space.

By comparison...I have a wood lathe that I received for my 40th birthday. I enjoyed using it to make wooden bowls, marveling at the signatures of various timbers. There are only so many wooden bowls you can give away before your friends and family say "Enough! Thanks, but no thanks."

What's the point of painting pictures if the public never gets to see them — Claude Monet

7. It makes me take notice

It goes with the territory—photographers see things that other people don't. It's as if you look at the world through virtual rectangular 'crop here' frames tattooed on the lenses of your eyes.

The quote below is perhaps my favourite. You bring your heart and soul into the seeing.

Looking is a gift, but seeing is a power — Jeff Berner

Question marksQuestion marksCopeton Waters State Park, NSW: In a sheltered cove on an overcast morning, the remains of a small shrub drowned decades before by the rising waters of the impoundment play against sharp rocks. The soft form of another tree in the background, exposed stones, and the gradually obscured sub-surface gravel complete an elegant composition. A neutral density filter was used to facilitate a four second exposure, blurring the reflections rippled by gentle waves. Musing that the skeletal tree is asking "why?"

8. Exploring images as words and words as images

I can combine my love of photography and writing. In the last two years I've been exploring haiga, the combination of photography and haiku poetry.

Repertoire seasonRepertoire seasonlyrebirds resound up up the slanted mist repertoire season ®

9. The challenge...

...of trying to make beautiful photographs of things rather than simply photographs of beautiful things. This is key. It's easy to make a photograph of a beautiful or spectacular thing: a spectacular sunset; a gorgeous flower. I see such things as works of God that are recorded by a camera. Is the photographer playing a substantive role in the creation of such imagery?

How about making photographs of things that most people regard as not beautiful, spectacular, novel, uplifting—and so on—and raising them above the banal?

To many the image on the right is just a dead bird. To me it has beauty because it's my tribute to the life and feats of an amazing seabird.

The final shoreThe final shoreWhy photograph a dead bird? It's not 'pretty'. Because it moves me. Because I'm in awe of the migratory feats of the shearwater....

10. The promise of photography...

I suppose this tenth reason is the big one. Providing I retain my sense of sight, some reasonable motor skills, and my mental faculties, I know that I will become a better photographer the longer I live. How many pastimes, hobbies, or pursuits in life can promise me that, plus the fulfilment and joy of being creative?

In my opinion, like good wine, photographers can improve with age because of these things: the natural wisdom of age; maturity of vision; and heightened visual literacy—things to be nurtured.

My best work is ahead of me. Always.



]]> (wowfactorpix) ageing imagination photography |109 Fri, 21 Oct 2016 06:56:53 GMT