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.
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.
Whale-free NABS1/1500th @ f5,6 & 840mm ISO 2000
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 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 valuesA pair of Australian ravens contest ownership of a discarded apple core. 1/750th @ f5.6 & 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?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.
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.
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.
Thank you, Giang, Robyn, and Des. It's a privilege to have this passion, the tools and ability to share it online, and friends who enjoy it. ®
Never ceases to amaze just how much there is to see on your morning walks. Your affinity for this place is only matched by the wildlife you visit upon. I enjoyed your exposition of the thoughts, feelings, reflections you experience and your capacity to bring much of it to life with your blend of art, craft and science. What a great retirement.
I've enjoyed reading this post Rob and particularly have enjoyed this last image.
A beautiful, inspirational and uplifting post. I thoroughly enjoy reading it, visualising your walk along Lighthouse Beach, and rejoicing the beauty of the various fauna and flora along the way. The image of the male superb fairy wren is very exquisite! Thank you.