wowfactorpix: Blog en-us (C) Wowfactorpix (Rob Smith) (wowfactorpix) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:09:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:09:00 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
The Alien Mantis It's well known that committed photographers are drawn to old things: the weathered; the corroded; the dilapidated. It's not so well known that some extra-terrestrial life forms can morph into old stuff and lie in wait for unsuspecting photographers.

Well, that's my theory anyway. How else can we explain the unsolved mystery of the disappearance of two mentally and physically sound, and well known photographers on 23rd October 2011, whose broken cameras and tripods were discovered in rugged country in the Great Dividing Range, in a crater bearing scorch marks. They were last seen leaving the Mooraback campground in Werrikimbe National Park.

Was Harold Holt using an underwater housing when he went missing? Did the girls at Hanging Rock have Box Brownies? Mysteries all

Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That, and surprise. — Julia Cameron
A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know. — Diane Arbus

Quest for the Corroded Alien MantisIt's well known that photographers gravitate to old stuff, the weathered, corroded, and dilapidated. It's not so well known that some extra-terrestrial life forms are capable of morphing into old stuff and lying in wait for photographers.


MantisMantisBrake pedal of a derelict truck in Doyles River State Forest.


(wowfactorpix) extra-terrestrials fiction forests friendship imagination mysteries photographers |63 Mon, 17 Oct 2016 08:35:28 GMT
The visualisation and making of 'Chromaria #2' Here's an example of the way my process can start with the visualisation of a finished, composite image during the moments of seeing and capturing its raw materials in the field.

Silhouetted on sticks. Superb fairy-wren.(Untitled)Silhouetted on sticks. Superb fairy-wren.

1. I captured this image before leaving Lighthouse Beach.

A female superb fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) celebrates the morning from a twiggy vantage point. I'm below her and shooting up. She's backlit and silhouetted against a clear sky. Usually I would regret the lack of detail but I have an idea for the use of the silhouette. 

Because of the pale, homogeneous background, the bird and twigs will be easily blended with other images using one of the Photoshop blend modes (e.g. multiplyoverlay, or soft light). Alternatively, the magic wand tool could be used to select the pale background and mask it out. I know, however, that this method is apt to leave pale fringing that will need cosmetic surgery.

At the time of shooting this frame I had it penciled in for a role in a composite image.

Discovered while lens was hunting focus. Be more aware of such potential in the future. The camera can see what you cannot with the naked eye.(Untitled)Discovered while lens was hunting focus. Be more aware of such potential in the future. The camera can see what you cannot with the naked eye.

2. While walking the track from the beach to Matthew Flinders Drive, I captured this image that I shared yesterday in the blog post Discovery and camera seeing. If you read the previous blog you'll know that this semi abstract was a serendipitous capture. Nevertheless, with this one on the camera's card, I started to imagine how it might work with the fairy-wren as I walked home.

Over breakfast and Lightroom, I studied the two images and devised a plan. It would need the services of Photoshop.

An imagined scene.Chromaria #1An imagined scene.

3. This is what emerged after a few minutes, and the treatment I applied to the component images:

The blurred semi-abstract background

  1. Global contrast and saturation boost in Lightroom.
  2. Opened in Photoshop and converted to a smart object.
  3. Mild dose of Gaussian blur (radius 9 pixels) all over except on the sharp twigs (masked out). This created a blur vignette effect

The wren

  1. Flipped horizontally and layered above the background image with multiply blend mode.
  2. Duplicated a small part of the wren's gape (the bit with the orange, backlit soft tissue), and put it on top of the layer stack, with normal blend mode. I wanted to preserve the flash of colour.
  3. Masked the lower portions of the silhouetted twigs to fade them into transparency at the base of the image. I didn't like the way they interacted with the lower border of the image when they were solid.

I studied the result for a while and mused that it might benefit from the addition of another element, some texture and lines to play against the twigs and background light show. For better or worse? Nothing ventured, nothing learned.

Disintegrating concrete path(Untitled)

4. Three days previously, in overcast light, I had spent my morning walk time photographing textures: the disintegrating concrete of a path near the lighthouse; and various rock details around The Backwash.

The overcast light was the decider for me to hunt textures that day. I like the directionless light because it makes the textures softer and more malleable if I want to alter their contrast during post-processing.

This is one of the concrete photographs. It contains a mix of interesting lines and gritty texture, with some clear spaces between the cracks that will be handy as windows through which other image components can be revealed. Having plenty of high (bright) values, it, too, will respond well to the Photoshop blend modes mentioned above.

I added this image to the layer stack, between the wren and the background, rotated it 180° counter-clockwise, changed the blend mode to overlay and reduced its opacity to 70%. 

5. The image below is where my thinking is at present. As with all such productions, it will sit for a while. I'll return to it with a critical eye and eventually settle on a version that satisfies my visualisation—a representation of the elusive, tiny wren with the incisive voice in its habitat that is characterised by heath and thicket.

Chromaria #2Chromaria #2An imagined scene. Silhouette of a female superb fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) blended with; the gorgeous bokeh of dappled light in vegetation behind the foredune at Lighthouse Beach; and a disintegrating concrete path near Tacking Point lighthouse. I imagine the interplay of lines and textures as metaphors for the heath habitat of the wrens.

New images surround us everywhere. They are invisible only because of sterile routine, convention, and fear — Lisette Model


(wowfactorpix) creativity imagination imagined seeing photoshop planning post-processing |131 Fri, 07 Oct 2016 10:59:11 GMT
Discovery and camera seeing Today I was reminded again of the power of limited depth of accident. A little wattlebird had landed in a casuarina behind the foredune at Lighthouse Beach. I raised the camera and put my eye to the viewfinder. What I saw was a vibrating branch; the bird had flown. Despite there being no feathered target in the frame, I half-pressed the shutter button and the focus motor of the lens whirred, hunting to find something on which to lock.

A magical scene appeared to me—beautiful out-of-focus luminous and dark shapes in greens, yellows, and mauves. Suspended against the blur of colours and light was a sharp constellation of twigs trussed with spider web between me and the vibrating branch vacated by the wattlebird. The camera had detected the contrast of the twigs against the soft background and locked focus on them. I liked what I saw and instinctively adjusted the composition to suit my sense of what looked good <click>.

I could not have noticed the scene revealed by the camera's viewfinder with my naked eye. My eye doesn't throw the background that much out of focus when I'm looking at a close object. My naked eye sees a confused, busy scene with tangled vegetation and dappled light. My eye tells my brain "No photograph there". No, this scene was the province of my camera—the technology— and I was alerted to its power by a moment of serendipity. Now I know, and now I'm prepared to exploit this phenomenon more in the future. Awareness is half the battle.

The genius of photography continues to delight and inspire.

In my next post I'll share what I visualised at the time of clicking the shutter, and the constructed image(s) that resulted.

Why limit yourself to what your eyes see when you have an opportunity to extend your vision — Edward Weston

Discovered while lens was hunting focus. Be more aware of such potential in the future. The camera can see what you cannot with the naked eye.(Untitled)Discovered while lens was hunting focus. Be more aware of such potential in the future. The camera can see what you cannot with the naked eye.


(wowfactorpix) bokeh colourful focus imagination inspiration soft light |128 Thu, 06 Oct 2016 02:00:00 GMT
Those damned cats! Thank you to all who left comments at the bottom of my last Picture Postcard, Judging from a soapbox. Normally, I would respond in the same place, but, due to the number and expansiveness of the responses, I think it will make for easier and more useful reading if I summarise the discussion with excerpts from comments, and better acknowledge and address some of the points made by readers, in a sequel issue of the Picture Postcard.

This is it. If the context of the summarised discussion below is unclear, or this is the first Picture Postcard you have read, you can get up to speed by clicking the Judging from a soapbox hyperlinks on this page and viewing readers' comments in their entirety. Previous PPs are accessible from the left sidebar menu.

First up, a big thank you to all who wrote compliments (I truly appreciate them) and those who gave the post extra legs by sharing it across cyberspace. I can see a marked spike in my website traffic statistics. It's wonderful (well, not really 'wonderful'!)...heartening to know that there are so many out there who are also disillusioned with the superficiality of judging that delves no deeper than technical and traditional craft attributes. We are not alone.

Besides comments on my website, I have also received personal emails, phone calls, and invitations to judge, speak, and run workshops. A groundswell of discontent has been building throughout the amateur photography club movement, it seems, and the calls for change are multiplying.

Let's get on with it. I'll respond to the (mostly) abridged comments in the order they were received.

"The depth of your vision has me go back and re study the photo, looking deeper to see if I can feel what you express, and I do. " — Brenda
I'm pleased, Brenda. One thing that I'm certain of is that if one makes the effort to study images and articulate thoughts and feelings that arise from that study, one becomes a more perceptive photographer. There's something about getting the words down that crystallises one's appreciation of others' work and what it is about that work that resonates. That's why I think online image evaluation forums can be so valuable. The pity is that it's been my experience that few people make the effort to participate in those forums in a meaningful way. "Wow!", "Brilliant!", "Top shot!" etcetera—as nice as they are to read—don't offer useful feedback to a photographer. The why is the most important component of feedback. A good critic can speak to the why.

"I couldn't agree more with you re the art of photography. Sometimes it seems a hard battle but it's one that must be won. I have to say that at Kiama Shellharbour Camera club (and yes it still is a camera club) we are moving quite distinctly into photography as an art but are still disappointed at times with the judges' comments. Keep on insisting and who knows one day we may get there. We have quite a few members who would like to do the judges course - mainly for experience." — Helen Woodward
Helen, I'm sure you'd be aware that a number of clubs in NSW have decided to abandon the traditional competition culture and reliance on external judging. Instead, they are developing image evaluation skills within their membership. The club that I belong to will soon debate whether that is a direction for us. Obviously, I'll be on the 'yes' side of that debate.

Incidentally, I think that articulating thoughts about photographs is a rich fringe benefit of judging/image evaluation: your own photography improves if you are forced to critically evaluate others' work. Importantly, the word 'critically' or 'critique' does not imply that comment is only negative, as some seem to assume. Praising the good things about an image is as important as expressing an opinion on how an image might be improved. A little encouragement works wonders.

"...I can sit and listen to your talks whilst enjoying your AVs every day, I learn so much from you and feel inspired by your comments, encouragement and creations. What a great night we had last week when you were the judge. Viewing members' images whilst listening to your comments gave us an uplifting experience and we feel positive and encouraged in our learning journey. Thanks for being a great Mentor, Rob." — Giang
You are very kind, Giang. It's the job of a judge in the photography club movement to try to be a mentor, an open-minded, frank and benevolent critic. The job is not to be superior or judgemental, to gratuitously expound one's knowledge of the tools (hardware and software), or to be technically picky unless technical issues significantly hinder appreciation of the image in terms of its ideas or expression.  I'm well pleased if what I do is encouraging you in your photography, because I have been encouraged by the best mentor whose comment, incidentally, was the next after yours.

"A vigorous blog. I hope it is read by folk far and wide with a love of photography and its power to stimulate one's imagined vision. Lorenzo did a great job of image analysis and its communication." — Des Crawley
Thanks, you.

"I am a admirer of good cameras, the technology that went into cameras, film, lenses and so on. So we can have a camera club, which discusses the latest technology, lenses etc...If the aim of a camera is to take a photograph and if the club deals with photographs then it is a photographic club. Is that correct? But does it matter?

Now the dog...I am no photographer but I was immediately struck by the shadows, the tragic forbidding scene. The cats with 3 eyes, I don't dig, (am I looking at it correctly?) but the photograph of a mongrel dog in trouble is just superb. It looks as if it's late in the day, the dog's race has run, all tuckered out, nowhere to go. Yeah! It's good." — GEOFF
Cheers, Geoff. I am also an admirer of good equipment. I appreciate good enginerring. I can geek on with the best of them. Well...maybe not the best of them...nor do I want to. I do think it matters that modern, progressive clubs are not called camera clubs. It puts the emphasis on the wrong thing, in my opinion.

Photography is the power of observation, not the application of technology" — Ken Rockwell
A camera is to photography as a house is to a home. It's necessary but not the heart and soul of it. A home is a place of love and family...heart and soul. It's not the bricks and mortar, the appliances, or the prestige of the address. Photography is also about people—photographers and their vision—not about the tools they use: cameras or any other kind of hardware or software...or the brand prestige that camera manufacturers want us to believe.

A technically perfect photograph can be the world's most boring picture" — Andreas Feininger
As for those damned cats!, I'll address that a bit further down!

"Rob, you did it again. Great blog, great story filled with the truth of life. This photo grabs the heart and squeezes it." — Tony Sullivan
Thanks, Tony. I wish the photograph was mine, and I think that's the best award that any photograph can receive from any judge. I often ask myself, "If this was my photograph, would I be entirely happy with it?" That doesn't necessarily mean it's a great photograph in anyone else's eyes. Art appreciation is subjective.

"Hi Rob, you are absolutely correct. You and I have had previous discussions about 'judging'. Now, I call it 'assessing' as to me 'judging' means the image is either right or wrong. Recently I read a ream or so of the importance of having triangles in successful photographs. No wonder we can't attract young photographers into clubs. Anyway at a recent club event I continually referred to triangles as I assessed each image. The sad part was the members accepted that triangles were an important visual element. At least they saw the humour in it when I told them I was joking as I awarded the usual gongs. Keep up the good fight. Common sense will eventually prevail." — Perc Carter
Perc, as fellow graduates of the Des Crawley school of image evaluation, we are going to see eye-to-eye. I agree that image 'assessment' or 'evaluation' is a better term than 'judging'. It connotes reasoned opinion that doesn't pronounce right or wrong. That's a gentler and democratic mode of learning and growth, especially in a group environment.

I put the image below together for your amusement. Click it to see a readable version in a new browser window, then click that version again to see it at maximum size.

TreeanglesTreeanglesFormulaic Foto Judging 101 by Lorenzo Schmidt

"Excellent photo, and excellent comment. I've always reckoned that a good "eye" for a pic is more important than the camera...It's also a MUCH more difficult thing to learn than using your camera properly. You did say "I'm still alive and uninjured" but you otherwise didn't tell us much about the reaction to your comments?" — David Ashton

It was a good night all round, David, for judge and audience. Lots of good feedback and satisfaction on my part that our members got some ideas out of the discourse that they can explore in their own photography.

"Your comments are quite inspiring to me. I haven't viewed 'judging' this way before, but I get this! Our club is a little different to others in some ways and I think your ideas on judging would be beneficial to our system of judging, which is almost always done in house." — Ormond

Ormond, it's so good to hear you say that. It's the path to greater enjoyment, meaning and fulfilment in photography. Go get it!

  Little boxesA parody of Malvina Reynolds' 1962 song 'Little boxes'. It laments the sameness and gear-centricity of much camera club photography.

"Great piece and, rightly, receiving supportive responses. Our Photographic Society is not constrained by a requirement to use accredited judges and primarily uses local professionals. The problem remains though as some of them place far too much emphasis on technique and composition rather than impact and storytelling. I enter because I believe in participating as much as possible in all the things I am part of, but all the non-competition activities are so much more appreciated (by me) precisely because they do not involve judging." — Brian Rope

I agree with you, Brian. You mentioned the word 'impact' which, in my opinion, also has its problems. I believe in the importance of composition as a foundation for imagery.

Composition is the strongest form of seeing" — Edward Weston
Images often rely on impact to be successful in traditional camera club and exhibition photography. It's because, particularly in exhibitions, judging is a rapid-fire process; there are just so many images to get through and judges have only a few seconds to assess and score. There are many fine images that reward the longer look and careful study, and these are disadvantaged by rapid-fire judging. That's such a shame. I prefer those images to: the rash of bullocks pulling chariots through mud holes; or rodeo riders being bucked off horses; or staged photographs of leathery old women in Kolkata cradling babies; or whatever else is flavour of the month/year in the salon circuits.

I remember a conversation with Graeme Burstow at Apscon 2011 in which he also lamented the potential superficiality of impact judging. David Johnson, below, expresses similar misgivings.

"Excellent article, Rob.

As a judge for the last 20 or so years I totally agree with you. Some images (whilst technically imperfect) can exhibit such emotion and expressiveness that it overcomes the imperfections. I too, have had the benefit of attending several of Prof. Des Crawley's presentations over the years and when I judge it's more about: 'What & how the image communicates?' 'How does it make you feel?'

I find that Clubs are still too caught up in Merits/Credits/Trophies these days. I'm not against awards, it's just that there are too many images to assess on competition nights. Having to assess 120-170 images in 2 hours means that one only gets a fleeting moment to view, comment and express. Some Clubs have gone away from the 'invited judge' all together, instead having members bring in one or two images that (in turn) get discussed at the meeting/ideas thrown about.

Too often, I think Art is turned into an 'Athletic race' re competitions, that it's all about getting Merits and that the actual act of producing a fine image is secondary.

At a recent judging, with a couple of possible exceptions (in a room of 50) at 52 I would have been the youngest person there...and unfortunately many of the comments I heard as I walked around before the night commenced were about 'gear', not the image which is inherently sad as it is the image that we come to experience, not the gear." — David Johnson
Thanks for your input, David. Agreed. " 52 I would have been the youngest person there". You whipper-snapper, you! I don't know what's wrong with the young people these days...trying to buck a tried and proven system! ;-)

"Clubs like ours request the judge make comments and suggestions about images. I find many of the comments really hard to handle. Having poor judging is one thing but to have some of the comments has really turned me away from entering into comps. I find competition “norms” can drag me away from what I would like to produce.

It is true to say when I looked at the image (Warmth for the ageing) at first glance it was unexceptional (lacking the required WOW factor that competitions demand) but the treatment that the photographer applied challenged me to look deeper.

The dark vignette, the harsh shadows, the central placement, mono, all asked questions of me, what is the subject? I suppose that to some extent that is the value of this image—it challenged me to look deeper. All of these make the image work. The central placement is perfect giving the image of the old dog a very passive resigned feel.

Unfortunately I then read your comments and I got into lazy mode and relied on your imagination, great. Your imagination never ceases to amaze me but yes its all there. I love the bit about the cats. The point I am making is that judges on the whole (generalising) don’t seem to have a natural ability to imagine but are stuck in the craft aspect.

[Is]Generational change the solution or the whole idea of competition, winner and losers? They have seconds to make a decision and that is one of the problems. Another issue is that most, and I generalise, club members are there to become better snap takers (and that is just fine) not creative photographers. Do we get the judges we deserve? Are we more interested in honours? So one of the solutions I believe is to seek out competitions that value creativity, interpretation and the feeling expressed in images...Great post." — John Stranack
John, we can see that the same  concerns are being raised in many quarters. I spoke with Ingrid (far north Queensland) who expressed the fear that many photographers, like you, are losing interest because of poor judging that doesn't foster creativity/individuality and growth.

"Your imagination never ceases to amaze me..." I'll let you in on a's my medication! (Joking)

"WOW. Thank you for this blog. You well know how much I agree with what you have written. As someone else has already commented, I also hope this is read far and wide. Let's make the world aware that photography is an art form, just as much as any other art.

Thank you so much for introducing me to the creative side of photography. I have always said I started using photography as a means of expression because I couldn't draw or paint like I wanted to. Getting out of the bounds of the thoughts of CC [camera club] judges and sharing many conversations with you and other likeminded people has helped me towards achieving what I am now.

First thing Wednesday morning I opened a message from Giang telling me about her experience on Tuesday night. I have since read through the comments and immediately understood her enthusiasm. I thank you for your comments on mine. Michael's image is a wonderful story, and your interpretation, as always, interesting. He deserved the gong. Rob, keep up the good fight, you are not alone in your thoughts, there are many of us." — Robyn Mussett

Robyn, your experience at the hands of many traditional style judges is illuminating. Your images generally don't do that well in our club competitions because your style is quiet, elegant and thoughtful. You don't hit people over the head with forced impact or processing, or slavish adherence to so called rules. Yet you are the most successful international salon exhibitor in the history of our club. Go figure.

"Rob, As always, a provocative post. Reading your comments had me returning again and again to the image to see if I could see what you had seen. I feel pleased that I managed to see almost everything you noted, and can but agree with the comments regarding the "formulaic" judging that sometimes happens.

Unfortunately, time does not always permit such in-depth analysis of images, but the aim should always be to see what the photographer was trying to convey (or at least our interpretation of it) rather than "good leading lines and use of the 'rule' of thirds". These are simply a cop-out when the real comment could perhaps have been "a boring image with no real subject"" — John Attwood

John, I find that the hardest images to judge are ones that have no major technical faults and no apparent ideas in them, or scope for the imagination to roam. As a judge, one must always try to say something useful and never deliberately offend. You are right, sometimes it is just better to admit defeat. Here's an example from the recent judging...

"An unusual camera point of view, high contrast and repeating elements is a promising combination. The photographer has achieved a punchy black and white conversion with controlled shadows and highlights.

While commenting on another image I mentioned how an odd-one-out element in a repeating group can call attention to itself in a good way. In this image we see a partially unrolled towel on one of the deck chairs and discarded gowns and shoes beside another. Unfortunately, however, there seems to be too much going on in this image that’s not unified or given design by the composition or choice of cropping. It’s not holding my attention and I don’t readily see what might be done to make something of it. I’m disappointed in my own inadequacy!

Sometimes you just have to put the camera down and walk away if the scene isn’t working for you."

Walk away—it's OK.

"I was indeed privileged to be in the audience to hear (and see) your critique of our Club's digital image competition for last month. It was a great learning experience for me. As usual, I have always valued your critiques and presentations and this occasion was no exception.

I cannot add to what has already been stated other than to say we are indeed fortunate to have someone like you who generously gives of his time to energise and assist us to develop our photographic experience.

Thank you Rob" — Terry Rutledge

Very kind of you, Terry. My actions aren't entirely altruistic, though. It's a two-way street...

The best way to learn is to teach" — Frank Oppenheimer
"I haven't had as much time for club meetings of late, perhaps because I felt I would not get much out of the judges comments.

Thank you for being such a wonderful advocate of the art. I have always thought photography should be called an art. I try often to learn from you and others how to see my photos "more". By that I mean what can I do with a scene in front of me, to convey what I am feeling at that moment. It doesn't always work. So I will keep trying, keep learning and keep appreciating. Perhaps I will take more time for competitions and the meetings in the future, now that I know I will get something from the judging. Thanks Rob, you are my hero. " — Ruth Marquez
Ruth (blush), I'm just applying what I've been taught. Thank you so much. Here are some paraphrased quotes I wrote in my notebook while listening to Des speaking about judging in 2009...

"A good judge can inspire people to keep going. Keep exploring an idea...take an 'almost there' image to another level."
​"A good judge will educate and encourage personal growth. Give photographers something to take away and ponder."

Your photography will grow in quantum leaps if you try to express ideas." — Emeritus Prof. Des Crawley

"Well done Lorenzo! What a great image. The story is there, and with possibilities: is the old dog just trying to warm up in the feeble sunshine where the concrete is warmest (as the title might suggest), is it contemplating the shadow line through rheumy eyes, is it just dozing without a care, is it feeling the creaking joints and just pausing to catch its breath mid-stride before moving on, where was I going again? It conjures memories of old foxies I've known and observed, and how many of them carried a back leg like this old guy. Of course, it's a foxy- it MUST be done in monochrome! Importantly to me, the craft is all there such that I didn't even look beyond the captured image and the story: nothing irritates, so one concentrates on the story." — Peter Fleming
Thank you, Peter, for making such an important point about where the focus on craft should be in evaluating creative photography. I have been taught not to go too hard on the craft aspects of an image unless​ flaws are really getting in the way of enjoying the image for its own sake or​ the technical attributes are working against what may appear to be the intent of the photographer in making the image.

"Rob, your blog seems to have touched a nerve in many people and it is pleasing to read so many (mostly favourable) comments. Re Michael's dog photo, I didn't see exactly what you saw but it was a worthy Judge's Choice. I thought maybe the dog was sniffing at cat smell on the ground so as you say each photo is appreciated differently by the beholder. Thanks for your detailed comments on the last club comp, as few judges would spend so much time studying and then commenting on the entries. You are inspiring. " — Geoff Muscutt
Geoff, it's gratifying to know that my blog post has generated interest and discussion beyond my website. As Perc Carter has said, "Common sense will eventually prevail", and the more vigorous the discussion the sooner that will occur.


"Some disjointed thoughts your blog has provoked in my mind, Rob:
- do other art forms "suffer" from the inquisition regarding their tools? do painters have to comment on the brushes and paint they used, the canvas they chose? Does a sculptor have to provide the model number of his chisel? Do we even think of that when admiring the piece?
- does the reliance on "rules" and convention ring more true with photography because it relies more heavily on a complex mechanical (technical, if you will) appliance to deliver it's outcome?
- isn't it just easier to fall back on tried and true rules and conventions, in the name of fairness and "quality", rather than appeal to the more vague idea of "artistic quality"?
- are we sacrificing recognition of the brilliant, in the name of a consistent and reliable approach?
- have other art forms through the ages had to break through convention and those that decided what "art" was and was not? ("If it's not J.S. Bach, it's not 'real' music!")
- and lastly, not a question...everyone I have shown this photo to has responded with "WOW...what a photo!" And when I explained it didn't really meet the rules of a technically great shot, they have all universally replied..."really? why not? well, some of those rules need changing". Mind you, they're just folk, not specifically aligned with a club (of either camera or photography bent). Just folk, appreciating a photograph." — Di
Your expansive comments are appreciated, Di, and I don't think they are disjointed! Yes, in my opinion, photography's reliance on an apparatus (camera gear) is one of the main reasons why evaluation of images is so often focussed on the output of the apparatus.

Vincent's brushesA parallel. Would artists have cared so much about the equipment that their peers used? Why do many photographers obsess about acquiring improved equipment at the expense of investing in improved vision and creativity?

Would Vincent have cared?... Vincent Van GoghVincent Van GoghWhat Vincent might have said about his art if he was like some modern tech-centric photographers.

...the way gearheads care about their toys...

*caricature of Bill Gates used with kind permission of the artist, Achille Superbi

GearHeadGet over yourself, Gearhead!"Show me your pictures, not your toys" ®

"Des has a lot to answer for and all of it positive. You are further down this track than I but I fully agree/admire with the path that you are taking. It takes time.

I'm a little older than you and, on recollection, the first time I attended at the tender age of 15 the "Maidstone Photographic Society" in 1956 I was a junior trainee with a local studio.

Technique was necessarily king, but I got a first for an image I'd created in the studio. The technique was acknowledged but the prize was for the vision.

I've struggled for the last 59 years to repeat what came naturally then. Digital technology has freed me now to pursue that vision without the tech monkey on my back and I thank folks like yourself, and Des for helping open my eyes and mind once again." — Peter Cotton
Peter, one of the greatest things about pursuing photography as an art form—for me—is the knowledge that, provided I look after my sight and retain reasonable manual dexterity and my marbles!, my photography will improve the longer I live and explore it. Age has some advantages and one of the most important is visual maturity and discernment. I'm now more selective about what I photograph. There are so many potential photographs that I just don't need to make any more. I concentrate on the things that mean something to me. Salgado said it best, in my opinion...

You photograph with all your ideology" — Sebastião Salgado
Musing on a tagline for my own photography, I settled on this...

"If it moves you, shoot it!" — Rob Smith

Those damned cats?Here they are. The shadows could also be likened to the shapes of horned owls, but cats fit my imagined story. That's all.

Three cats on a fenceThree cats on a fence© Michael Sheppard 2015. The shadows are metaphors for cats. 115.150920

(wowfactorpix) competitions critique discontent encouragement evaluation feedback groundswell image judging photography progress tradition |432.16L Thu, 17 Sep 2015 11:35:24 GMT
Judging from a soapbox Yes, I'm still alive, and I know it's been a long time since I've posted a blog. It's not that I've gone to sleep on photography (far from it) but, rather, been wide awake to competing photographic opportunities and commitments. More of those things in subsequent blogs, perhaps, but, for now,

I'd like to share a recent experience of soapboxing. Who? a soapbox? :-)

Show me your pictures, not your toys." — Rob Smith
I've been an accredited judge in the camera club movement since 2009, and have also judged at national and international exhibitions. From now on, though, I'll try never to refer to the camera club movement again. My own club has recently changed its name from a ​Camera Club to a Photographic Club.​ Yes, at last! That's an important step, and for those of you who are not in the photographic club movement, I will explain...

Photography is both an art and a craft; alter egos if you like. Unfortunately, for decades in the photographic club movement, the emphasis of the majority of opinion leaders and judges has been biased towards the craft and the gear—the tools. In the days of film photography it was meritorious to produce a technically accomplished photograph as a print or a slide. I was chuffed when I 'got one'; when I nailed the craft. Nowadays, I like to refer to the craft alter ego of photography as its Achilles heel. How so? Because preoccupation with the craft/gear aspects of photography is to the detriment of the appreciation of the photograph as a means of expression, and your growth as a creative photographer.

Crave better equipment, or burn to be a better photographer?" — Rob Smith
Now, in the digital age, we are in the golden age of photography. Now, more than ever, it is the democratic art (according to The Tate Gallery, London, it's "the 21st century's dominant art form"). Now, more than ever, one's proficiency with the tools is easy to master. With modern equipment, we can largely assign to the technology the task of getting the craft right. Yet, for the most part, judging of photographs in the photographic club movement is preoccupied with technical analysis of images, and insistence on practitioners' adherence to hoary rules, rather than being liberated from that stuff (it's a soft target to aspire to simply producing technically competent images) and attempting to evaluate images in terms of their artistic merit...or, if 'artistic' is too arty farty or pretentious a concept for you, their expressive merit.

I became a judge because I became frustrated with the old guard style of judging that dominated the camera club experience as I knew it. Once liberated from the technical challenges of photography by the technology of the digital age, I was ready to take my photography beyond the record, beyond a preoccupation with the gear and the rules. I wanted to express myself through photography. But the camera club environment wasn't helping me grow into that. Month after month I'd sit in the audience at our club and mutter to myself when I heard the comments of judges who couldn't see, or attempt to see, anything beyond technical merit in an image, or glib adherence to formulaic rote such as, for example, The Rule of Thirds.

I've judged many times since completing a creative photography and image evaluation course led by Emeritus Professor Des Crawley in 2009. Des opened my eyes to a whole new (to me) and exciting world of photography as an art form and, more importantly, encouraged and inspired me to believe that I could participate in it. But I have never judged at my own club. At my own club, I have continued to be disappointed with the (mostly) old guard judging style that pervades the club movement in NSW. In my opinion, it doesn't help that the parent body for the amateur photography movement in NSW is called the Federation of Camera Clubs. Other states have photographic societies or associations. Rightly so, the emphasis should be on photography rather than cameras.

A great camera can't make a great photograph, any more than a great typewriter can write a great novel. It's what you do with it that counts." — Peter Adams
Recently, I was quietly asked by my club's digital image steward to judge a monthly round for our club as she had found difficulty in securing a judge. I agreed because I had not competed at our club for some time (largely due to dissatisfaction with narrow-minded judging); I could remain impartial...and anonymous! I revelled in the opportunity to put up or shut up after being such a strong critic of the kind of judging that our members have been subjected to on, not all, but too many my humble opinion! Our club, being regional, doesn't have live judging. Our images are posted or made available to remote judges online who return written critiques.

So it was that I delivered a judging at our club last week. I read from my written comments, in the absence of our digital steward who usually reads the judge's comments, and did not identify myself as the judge. When one member asked, "Who is this judge?", I answered, "Lorenzo Schmidt". It wasn't until the end of the evening that I fessed up to being the culprit. I'm still alive and uninjured. In fact, and modesty aside, I received wonderful expressions of appreciation for the job I did.

With the permission of the photographer, here's the critique that I gave to the image that I awarded "Judge's Choice" in the open monochrome section.

Image title: Warmth for the ageing © M. Sheppard

Warmth for the ageingWarmth for the ageing© Michael Sheppard 2015

Poignant. Distressing. Portentous. “Warmth for the ageing” is an exemplar of a title that hints at the photographer’s feeling while giving the audience room to run with the ball. And I’m running with the ball with a lump in my throat.

Another judge might say, “Blown highlight on the dog’s back”. I don’t care.

​Yet another, "It's best not to centre the subject in the frame". I say, "Is that a rote comment? Sometimes it's appropriate".

Another judge might say, “Can’t see the dog’s eyes. Need to see the dog’s eyes and, by the way, the shadows are blocked”.

​Yet another, "Use a smaller aperture to get greater depth of field". I say, "Are you kidding me? Get a visual life! Is that just a knee-jerk comment or have you really thought about it?"

What do I see? A little, old, stooped over dog on a narrow road to somewhere; a road that cannot be avoided. The dog's distorted shadow is both cute and ominous. The little dog stops and looks at a line on the road. Is he/she ready to cross over?

Three of the neighbourhood cats are perched on the fence, their shadows falling on the symbolic road. They seem to me to be watching and waiting to see what their nemesis will do. Is the era of them being chased from this territory drawing to a close?

They say that some dogs wander off when they know their time is near.

This is a wonderful image. I can’t fault it. It exhibits competent craft, but more importantly it asks questions of the audience and gives the viewer’s imagination room to roam.  It teases out the ideas of decline and mortality, concepts that every living being faces.  MERIT & JUDGE’S CHOICE

Now you might say that the ideas I see and imagine in the image could be the ravings of a lunatic; peculiar to me. Perhaps they are nothing to do with what the photographer saw or was trying to express. Absolutely possible!

But it doesn't matter.

Appreciation of visual art, whether painting, sculpture, or photography, is in the eye of the beholder. You like what you like, and I like what I like—no argument. The point I hope to make is that it doesn't matter whether dfferent people have different interpretations. The important thing is that the artwork (in this case a photograph) has the ability to fire the viewer's imagination at all.

If anyone would like to engage in a discussion on this topic in the comments below, I welcome it. ®

(wowfactorpix) art camera clubs competitions convention craft expression formulae judging photography problems tradition |2198.1612 Sat, 12 Sep 2015 11:52:02 GMT
Falco-fan Peregrine stoopingPeregrine stoopingPeregrine falcon photographed by Jim Zipp. © Since childhood, I have admired the prowess of the peregrine falcon, Falco *peregrinus (*Latin 'wanderer'). The first time I witnessed a peregrine kill—from my vantage point on the banks of the Macintyre River behind Inverell's town library—I was simply awestruck: speed, audacity, strength, acuity and elan. It was a signature strike, the falcon stooping (diving) from altitude at withering speed to close the gap before thrusting talons forward to snatch its prey and then delivering the coup-de-grâce midflight—a dislocating bite to the feral pigeon's neck vertebrae with the falcon's characteristically toothed beak. "Wow!, one less pigeon shitting on the courthouse."

In my eyes, the peregrine is the Porsche 911 Turbo of the bird world—a classic and the most impressive and iconic bird on the planet. Little wonder that I have adopted it as my totem and featured it in logos for my photography (the art of seeing).

Peregrine falcon stooping used with permission of the photographer, Jim Zipp USA (

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

Peregrine FalconPeregrine FalconPeregrine falcon study by UK artist Stuart Herod.

Peregrine falcon portrait used with permission of the artist, Stuart Herod UK (

The peregrine is a cosmopolitan species found on every continent except Antarctica. The female, called the falcon, is larger and stronger than the male, called the tiercel. It's the archetypal raptor of traditional falconry (practised since 2000 BC), a species so revered that only noblemen were permitted to own one and fly it from the hand to hunt gamebirds. It's the fastest moving animal on the planet, capable of more than 350kph in a gravity-assisted stoop. Watch this National Geographic video and be impressed! If you're a bird and a peregrine locks you in its sights from above, feathers will fly.

Peregrine in pursuitPeregrine in pursuitPhotograph by Will Sooter. ©

Peregrine in pursuit used with permission of the photographer, Will Sooter USA (

As a boy, I read books on falconry and fantasized about owning a peregrine and hunting with it.

True story: I also fantasized about reincarnation as a peregrine and buzzing the main street of Inverell, much to the (imagined) astonishment of shoppers!
I also read books by the famous big game hunter-turned-conservationist, Jim Corbett. In this enlightened age, some might be shocked that an avowed nature lover like me, with an honours degree in zoology, could be so fascinated by hunting and predation. Quite simply, I cannot deny my human roots, my human condition as a descendant of hunters and gatherers. It's innate, even for a civilised person, to be a hunter. My animal protein food is mostly harvested by other humans, whether by net, hook, blade or bullet.

Yes, I experience a thrill when I see a predator like the peregrine falcon doing what it was designed to do. These days I still love to hunt, with a camera or a fishing rod. Hunting is an honest, legitimate human activity when practised with humane respect for the quarry and the environment.

The smartest peregrine I ever witnessed

It was the NRL grand final day in 1984. Instead of watching the game on TV, I preferred to be out hunting with a fishing rod and a few home-made lures in a tinny at Lake Copeton. A transistor radio kept me up to date with the footy score while I was fixed on Murray cod and golden perch, drifting in the vicinity of a collection of granite boulders; an island exposed by the falling level of the irrigation impoundment.

From its vantage point atop the masthead of a black cypress pine skeleton, the female falcon scanned 360 degrees, not alarmed by the presence of a man on the water near its islet refuge. Its sharp eyes followed the repeated arcs of a small object flung from a stick the man wielded, and the rippling rings generated when the object landed on the water and dived below.

At a range of perhaps 1,000 metres, the falcon detected the forms of a pair of grey teal approaching from the east, flying over open water on a bearing westward that would bring them to within 100 metres south of the islet at an altitude of 30 metres. The falcon dropped silently from its perch on a faking course northward, its shadow passing over the man as he released a five kilo Murray cod. He looked up to follow the bird's progress with his eyes shielded from the high sun by a downturned palm.

The peregrine's normal modus operandi was to ambush prey from a superior altitude at the culmination of a rapid dive. On this occasion, flying to a high attack-launch position through a clear blue sky would surely betray her presence to the ducks that—with eyes positioned on the sides of their heads—could scan 360 degrees to detect danger. Cunningly, the falcon scythed north, north-east, east, south-east, south, south-west and then west in a long, low arc, keeping herself below the horizon of hills surrounding the lake, until she was behind and below the ducks at a range of 200 metres...and closing. Instead of a gravity-assisted strike from above, this time the peregrine relied on her speed in level flight to catch the ducks, which stayed their course unaware of the predator on their tails.

The man was spellbound at the spectacle of the falcon's tactic and speed. He watched the wing-blurred shape of the falcon beating 20 metres above the lake in the ducks' blind spot. Within seconds they were within reach. The falcon swooped up and raked the trailing duck with talons in a passing strike that failed to grip. Feathers flew from the injured duck and it plummeted to the water with wings folded.

The falcon circled and swooped to intimidate the duck but it would not or could not take to the wing again. Thwarted, the falcon returned to its perch—aware that it was not designed to pluck such heavy prey from the water—and waited.

"Wow...bad luck," said the man, "but what a crafty hunter you are! Awesome."

"Whirrrr...splash". The man cast his lure into the shade of a granite boulder, clicked the reel into gear, and began the retrieve, feeling the throb of the lure through the line and rod tip.

A Murray cod left the cover of an overhanging boulder and closed on the source of vibrations beating towards the man in the boat.

Murray CodMurray Cod and Predatek BoomerangLure design, Murray cod artwork and underwater photograph © Rob Smith 1989.

Composite pen and ink drawing (1989) and photographs. © Rob Smith

2015 falcon logo2015 falcon logo A new falco logo

So you can appreciate why I admire the peregrine? During my confinement with a broken ankle, I've spent some time designing a new falcon logo for my photography. Why? I want something that's graphically more versatile than the old logos; something that can reproduce well without fine detail, colour and shading; something that will lend itself to be made into an embossing stamp that I can apply to my fine art prints for sale; and something that will work for embroidery. I acknowledge feedback from my son Dylan, also a peregrine aficionado, during the painstaking process of achieving just the right shape and style to satisfy our taste. I also acknowledge David Sebben USA whose photograph of a vocalising peregrine served as the starting profile for my design.

Peregrine falcon logoWowfactorpix peregrine falcon logo.

Peregrine haikuPeregrine haikuhurtling past...the peregrine's eye...altitude

I manufactured the image and wrote the haiku (right) to celebrate the peregrine falcon.

I thank Stuart Herod, Jim Zipp and Will Sooter for permission to use examples of their wonderful peregrine imagery in this blog post. How fantastic is the internet that we can so easily connect with like-minded people.

(wowfactorpix) branding ethology falcon falconry hunting inspiration logos peregrine predators vision |832.1612 Sun, 08 Mar 2015 22:45:50 GMT
PS...happy birthday, 'Killer' A silver anniversary is something to celebrate, especially in the commercial battlefield of information technology. Thinking back to the commencement of my IT career in 1980, I can recall the rise of the personal computer and the competition among software companies to develop the killer applications.

Who remembers the contestants in the spreadsheet battle?: SuperCalc; Visicalc; Lotus 1-2-3; Borland Quattro; and the victor, Microsoft Excel®. Excel remains a killer app. It's the industry standard number crunching go to and I've enjoyed using it for decades. I marvel at the power it puts in people's hands...or mice!

In the late 1980s I had a need to design fishing lures for a business that two friends and I had established in 1986 ( I chose CorelDraw®, a vector-based illustration application, to do the work and learned how to use it by RTFM (reading the flippin' (politely) manual).

Meanwhile, "In 1987, Thomas Knoll, a PhD student at the University of Michigan, began writing a program on his Macintosh Plus to display grayscale images on a monochrome display." (Wikipedia). He called it Display.

In February 1988, Ruby and I celebrated the arrival of our first child, Dylan, who is now a high school teacher in Gilgandra NSW. Meanwhile, in that same year, Thomas Knoll took a six month sabbatical to collaborate with his brother, Thomas, on further development of his image editing program. They wanted to rename the program to ImagePro but were disappointed to learn that the name was already taken...®! :-(

By the early 90s I was fortunately able to bring graphics skills to my day job in the electricity industry, designing a commemorative medal, a cover for North West County Council's book "Powering the North West" (a history of NWCC's first 50 years), and several corporate annual report covers.

By the mid 90's, the first tranche of industry reform in the energy sector had seen the amalgamation of 27 county councils into five energy distributors in NSW. By then I was working for NorthPower—based in Port Macquarie—still working in IT, and still able to bring my interest in graphic design to work. I project-managed the development of NorthPower's first website and became the webmaster. What a heady title in those early days! Haha.

Soon after, NorthPower decided it wanted to become a multi-utility and launched an internet service provider business called TurboWeb™. It was blazingly fast (so our advertisements said), running on 56kbps dial-up modems using the copper telephone network! "Fast"?...yeah, right! I transferred to NorthPower's marketing department to help build the brand.

Tasked with designing press advertisements for Turbo-Web, I needed to learn (RTFM) how to use CorelDraw's sibling application Corel PhotoPaint®—a raster-based graphics editing application. It could produce transparent GIF files and do other things that the vector-based CorelDraw could not. Mmmm, Corel PhotoPaint...the name was a nod to Thomas Knoll's baby which, by this time, had claimed the category—to use a marketing term.

In 1999, NorthPower purchased a Nikon Coolscan 35mm film scanner which I used to scan slides and negatives into a computer for editing. It came with a free copy of Adobe Photoshop® 5.5.

Thus had arrived my opportunity to get with the strength. I did the familiar RTFM exercise and was soon getting myself up to speed using the tool of choice for professional graphic designers since Adobe had purchased the licence from Thomas Knoll in 1988 and launched it as the killer app Photoshop 1.0 in February 1990.

Happy 25th birthday, Killer!

In 2004 I purchased my first DSLR camera and rekindled an interest in photography that began in a school darkroom when I was 17. I soon discovered how fortunate I was to already have the graphics software skills needed to take advantage of the new age of digital photography. My interest in photography soon blossomed (some could say 'degraded') into an obsession. I prefer the word 'passion'.

26/03/2005 07:17:45 AM

I took this photograph at The Backwash.

Lone waveLone waveA maverick wave rises at The Backwash.

I liked it and considered that it was probably the best and most satisfying photograph I'd taken in 30 years. I fiddled with it in Photoshop to increase the contrast and mused that the lone wave was in some ways a metaphor for my personality—that of an introvert unafraid to be alone in the wild or on a personal journey. As much as I liked the photograph, I felt that it needed more if it was to be a better personal metaphor. So I set about looking for the missing character.

23/04/2005 07:24:00 AM

I took this photograph at The Backwash.

Lone ternLone ternThe missing 'character' in a metaphor.


I made this landmark (for me) image using skills with a camera and software and my imagination.

LonersLonersThe epiphany moment for my photography.

Including the lone tern enhanced my metaphor, for I have been a nature lover and, in particular, a bird lover since childhood.


As I sat at the computer creating 'Loners' in Photoshop...

...I realised that I now had freedom and powerful tools with which to create imagined worlds based on photographic experiences.
I could do similar things, albeit with less finesse, in the darkroom years ago, but it was damned hard work—and hard to replicate—compared to using the sophisticated pixel-level tools of the digital age.

I was hooked!

(wowfactorpix) Photoshop birthday celebration epiphany freedom imagination killer application photography |448.1612 Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:54:40 GMT
Stupid is as Stoopid does... I bet you didn't know that photography is an extreme sport. Yeah? Injuries sustained in the field can keep you housebound for a while. But that doesn't mean you can't create in other ways during the recovery process, providing you have a photo library and some ideas—and too much time on your hands.

The masked plover .mp3 alarm on Stoopid's smartphone broke the silence at 0515 on a Sunday morning. Stoopid jumped out of bed and looked out of the window into the darkness. The faint glow of dawn was building in the east

"Good. Looks like a dramatic sunrise is on the cards with those layered clouds, and I should have enough time to get into position well before the sun breaks the horizon." Having hatched a plan the previous evening, he dressed quickly and considered footwear. "Boots? Nah, too slow to lace and tie and, besides, I won't be on the rocks this morning, or anywhere near the water; just shooting from the grassy knoll. The old favourites will comfortable".

He slid the eighteen year old Converse casuals from under the bedside chair, slipped them on and tied the laces—marveling, as usual, at how well the faded suede uppers had withstood the years. He loved them as one would love a faithful old dog. The crazed and shiny synthetic soles were still serviceable, despite their tread having disappeared long ago.

Old faithfulsOld (Converse) faithfulsNot recommended for extreme sports.

He parked the little red car near the leaning banksia that resembled a laurel wreath gateway to Tacking Point. Shouldering a camera bag and gripping a neoprene sheathed leg of the heavy tripod, he bush-bashed through a thicket of trees, shrubs, fallen branches and flax on the steep slope. Breathing heavily and attended by mosquitoes, he emerged on the grassy knoll commanding a view south along Lighthouse Beach. But the beach wasn't in his plan; nor were the mossies. "Little bastards!"

He turned to face the headland, looking for a clear view to the lighthouse at an elevation that would put the base of the building on the sea horizon. Stoopid was too high. Moving down and left a few paces his view was frustrated by trees. "Typical", he thought. "Nothin's ever easy! Where's that bloody chainsaw when you need it!"

"OK, maybe if I get down there under that tree I'll find a gap in the canopies that I can shoot through. Gonna need one long and two short legs on the tripod to compensate for the slope, though."

Man who photograph horizon from side of a hill, he not on the level — Confucious
As Stoopid descended, using the extended tripod leg as a steadier, the shiny soles of the Converse veterans met the lustre of flax. Something gave way underneath, perhaps a rotting branch, and Stoopid's right foot turned in and under as his left foot skidded away. As if having the rug pulled out from under, Stoopid's backside crushed the bulk of his mass onto his hyperextended right foot. The rush of pain from a serious sprain synchronised with an exclamatory snap of bone.

"Ahfu___! F____!" (I can't lie, Mum, I do swear)

Too late, Stoopid thrust his right leg out from under and lay back into the slope, closing his eyes and reeling from the spasms in his foot.

"Good one, you stupid bastard! You do own ankle-supporting boots. Can you even get yourself out of here now?"

Stoopid rested for a couple of minutes as the sun rose above the Pacific and the pain subsided. It was a spectacular sunrise, of course.

Long story for a penny, in for a pound. It was too early to seek medical attention, so Stoopid hobbled back up the slope, this time using the tripod as a crutch, and set it in a sub-optimal position on the grassy knoll. "Now that I'm here, I may as well shoot a few before heading home. Something good might happen."

Lighthouse keepersLighthouse keepersMultiple exposures composited.

It didn't, really, and about forty minutes later he packed it in, hobbling and bum-sliding down to the car, rueing that he'd driven the little red VW with the manual transmission that morning instead of the auto Subaru. He left the car in first gear all the way home.

Orthopaedic surgeon's verdict: Guilty of stupidity, severe sprain and fractured fibula. Sentence: six to eight weeks on crutches; eligible for parole in three months depending on satisfactory behaviour. 

Serves Stoopid right.

Spouse's resigned reaction: "Robert, Robert, Robert!"

Philosophically, I suppose Stoopid can be thankful that this happened so early in retirement: a good wake-up call that should serve to make him even more careful as the years advance. And the lay-up does give him plenty of time to play with Photoshop and ideas.

Yes, this issue's video does include some gratuitous political satire but, hey, it's just a bit of fun. Having fun with photography is the most important thing. Try filling up your days with more than boredom when you're laid up with a broken ankle!  :-)

Rob, inside your mind is a scary place — Name Withheld

You can't teach an old dog...A bit of fun creating an image to depict a saying. Created while recovering from a broken ankle, hence the crutches for props.

(wowfactorpix) Photoshop hazards humour imagination injuries injury punishment satire |445.1612 Sun, 08 Feb 2015 03:43:38 GMT
The man on the headland Looking out of the bedroom window, the photographer assessed prospects for the morning walk. Dooragan―the mountain dominating the southern horizon―was emerging more slowly than usual from the darkness despite the impending dawn: the coastline was sleeping in under a grey stratus blanket. Sunrise, due in 30 minutes, was unlikely to kiss Dooragan's summit this day. The photographer tossed a mental coin.

"Will I take the big camera?" He pressed the tip of his nose against the gauze, feeling the cooler air outside, and listened. "Mmm, the sea's not doing much."  

There was nothing to whet his appetite; no sound of heavy surf dumping on Lighthouse Beach; only a murmur carried on the breeze.  He stretched and grimaced, his shoulders reminding him of tendons he'd damaged during a recent camping trip by lifting heavy firewood without regard for his years and fitness. Acceptance that his body no longer had the recuperative capacity of his youth was coming slowly. Carrying the big camera and a four kilo tripod on his walks during the last week hadn't helped.

He contemplated walking without the encumbrance of a camera at all, musing that there was unlikely to be anything of interest anyway. "But you never know, do you?", said an inner voice. "Yeah, yeah, I know, what's my own comfort got to do with it? OK, I'll take the little camera". The inner voice answered its own question.

The walk through the neighbourhood was attended by familiar sounds: magpies chortling in the new day; grey butcherbirds exulting with their own version of kookaburra laughter; noisy miners chorusing in the eucalypts; and the funereal cries of yellow-tailed black cockatoos doing the rounds of local banksias and casuarinas for their nutty breakfast. The photographer walked briskly, appreciating the gentle pull of the small camera slung on his aching shoulder.

After twenty minutes, two kilometres were behind him and he was on the saddle between the final hill and Tacking Point. He looked south to Watonga Rocks, taking in the ragged wash of surf dissolving into the curve of the beach, and beyond where the heavy salt air all but obscured Grant's Head, Perpendicular Point and Dooragan. For a moment he regretted leaving the big gear behind, visualising what could be made of the scene with the benefit of a rock-like tripod and slow exposures. "Too bad! Work with what you have. That's an order."

He paused at the car park below the lighthouse and scanned the scene. "What haven't I paid much attention to in the past?"

Foundations of lighthouse keeper's cottage"They didn't move him...not like the silhouette of a man sitting on the park bench just north of the light..."

In the eye of the ring road, the vestiges of the foundations of the lighthouse keeper's cottage suggested themselves. Maybe they'd make a good foreground for the lighthouse becoming backlit by sunrise diffused through clouds. He made a few desultory exposures, dismissing them as nothing more than going through the motions. They didn't move him...not like the silhouette of a man sitting on the park bench just north of the light, facing the ocean, facing the new day. The bench, its legs and those of the man were skylined on the crown of the headland. "Strange", the photographer thought, "he's wearing a hoodie. It's not cold. It's so good to feel this fresh air after such a spell of oppressive heat. That bloke must be a frog! Mmmm...reminds me of the Grim Reaper". An idea germinated.

Then the photographer noticed the tassled fringe of a rug flapping in the breeze, between the seat and the ground. He concluded that the man on the seat was probably a young bloke seeing in the day with his sweetheart. She wasn't visible; probably lying on the rug on the seat with her head in his lap. It wasn't unusual to see young people on the headland at sunrise sharing the comfort of a blanket.

Paying for motivationPaying for motivation"A bevy of bootcampers puffed up the stairs to the light and trouped across the skyline following their macho instructor." "Yeah, that's nice. What can I do with that?" Another idea flickered. The photographer shifted his position to place the man on the headland near the left edge of the frame to counterbalance the bulk of the lighthouse on the right. He noticed that the clouds were breaking up and sweeping across, and zoomed the lens out to give the enlivened sky a stronger role. He was thinking 'scale', and liked the idea of a small figure in a big landscape and that the man on the headland appeared to be communing. The heavens supported the notion. The photographer started to think of how the images might be processed. Split-toned black and white with a panoramic crop. Moody. Thought provoking.

"The light's dull. Up the ISO and turn on the image stabiliser. You don't want camera shake blur."

A bevy of bootcampers puffed up the stairs to the light and trouped across the skyline following their macho instructor. It was then that the photographer noticed a small head pop up beside the man on the headland to watch the parade. It wasn't a sweetheart's but that of a little dog, perhaps a miniature poodle. White. The bootcampers trotted past and out of the frame, leaving the little dog and its master once again to their solitude.

The photographer wondered if it was just a man and his dog or whether a sweetheart remained unseen, still lying on the seat with legs tucked up. It wasn't possible to tell from where the photographer was working the scene.

A magpie pays a visitA magpie pays a visit"The photographer imagined the magpie delivering wisdom from a lectern." A magpie landed on the headland and the dog turned its attention to the bird. The magpie flew to a sign near the seat and the photographer zoomed in to explore a tighter view, excluding the lighthouse from the composition. The photographer imagined the magpie delivering wisdom from a lectern. Then it flew away. Once more alone―the man and the little dog and...the sweetheart?

The photographer continued working the scene, zooming out again to include the lighthouse and keeping an eye on what the clouds were doing, looking for pleasing configurations in concert with the shapes on the headland.

Soon after, the man on the headland stood and gathered up the rug and placed the little dog on the ground. No sweetheart. As the man and his dog walked across the skyline toward the lighthouse and down the steps to the carpark, the photographer shot a series of images with the little camera in sequential mode <click> <click> <click> <click> <click> <click>...

Vigil overVigil over"As the man and his dog walked across the skyline...the photographer shot a series of images with the little camera in sequential mode." The photographer slung his camera across his shoulder and approached as the man placed the little dog on the front passenger seat of a car. He noticed that the man on the headland was of a similar age to himself. The man closed the car door.

"Excuse me, mate", said the photographer, "have you got a minute?". This was outside the photographer's comfort zone. He wouldn't normally approach people he had photographed from a distance. What was the point? They weren't recognisable. They might be suspicious of a profit motive. He didn't really know what had compelled him to approach the man on the headland this day, but something did.

The man on the headland paused and looked toward the photographer. He had the drawn look of a person with things weighing on his mind (the photographer felt awkward. Was this a bad idea?)

The photographer stumbled on, not waiting for an answer...

"Um...I'm a photographer and I think that I've just got some nice photographs of you and your dog. I wonder if you'd like me to send one to strings attached. I'd be happy to. Do you have an email address?"

"Oh...I suppose so", he replied. "I've been here since two o'clock". (that explains the hoodie and the rug, thought the photographer)

The man went on..."It's 12 months since my wife passed away".

The photographer felt a pang of regret at his intrusion, and aching sympathy for the man's loss.

"Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. You've come here for some reflection. It's a good place for some quiet time... (trying not to appear awkward and to keep the conversation going...with inadequate words). Do you have something to write on?"

The man on the headland went to his car's centre console, found a piece of paper and wrote on it. Against his instinct to leave the man in peace, the photographer pressed for more information.

"Do you mind me asking, what's your dog's name? It might help me to do something better with the picture".


(Hesitating) "And......your wife's name?"

"It's there", he said, pointing, and the photographer looked and saw a husband-and-wife@ email address written on the paper. Sweetheart now had a name. Empathy swelled.

"Thank you", said the photographer, calling the man on the headland by his given name. He placed his hand on the man's shoulder, and said..."You take things easy today."

The man on the headland nodded and smiled thinly, seeming appreciative of the stranger's kind gesture.

Arriving back at his house, the photographer switched on his computer, started the download, showered and made his breakfast. Later that day he sent an email, hoping that the image he had chosen to speak for the morning's encounter would be received as a welcome gift—albeit a bittersweet one—to mark an anniversary for the man on the headland and his sweetheart.

Remembering Sweetheart with PrincessRemembering Sweetheart with PrincessThe photograph sent to the man on the headland, to be followed by a complimentary print for framing if he desires one. His wife passed away 19 January 2014.

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever... it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything." — Aaron Siskind

(wowfactorpix) encounter fate memories remembrance solitude |464.1612 Tue, 20 Jan 2015 04:52:09 GMT
Something from nothing Wavering like a belly dancer behind a rising veil of heat mirage and smoke, the wet skeleton of the dead cypress pine cuts a shifting black network against the flank of the South Brother, one of two sentinel bluffs marking the place where the river emerges from the wilderness into farmland. Normally, the murmur of tumbling rapids reaches the elevated camp site near the rim of the escarpment two hundred metres above the Horseshoe Bend, but the river is now silent. Intermittently visible through the blossoming crowns of rough-barked apple trees, a staircase of bleached stones snakes upstream and disappears into folds of the landscape. Drought has sucked the lifeblood and voice from the river.  

Pops and crackles from an ironbark fire mix with hisses on coals and the steady patter of rain on the tent and its awning. A solitary photographer sits in a camp chair contemplating how to fill in the wet day with a camera while his three sons and two of their friends stalk feral goats and pigs in the rugged gorge below with rifles and a compound bow. The rain is a blessing for the hunters―a cooling foil for physical exertion in summer heat and a masking agent for footfalls; making pliable the mat of leaves and twigs that had lain tinder dry on the ground two days before.

For the photographer, the rain is an imagination enforcer. Preconceived ideas of photographic opportunities for the trip need to be abandoned. See with fresh eyes. Make the most of what's on offer.

Don't go looking for what you expect to find, it may limit what you see — Rob Smith

Looking isn't seeing

Our party of six―brothers Mitch and Shaun Whale, my sons Dylan, Matt and Ben, and me―had arrived at the gorge on the Saturday morning after Christmas 2014. The BoM had forecast patchy rain for the ensuing days and a blanket of sombre cloud was already drawn from horizon to horizon as we unpacked the vehicles. It was good to make camp before the rain started and I wondered if, come Monday, I'd be breaking camp in the rain for my third trip in succession.

With home for the next two nights established on a plateau with a panoramic westward view for sundowners, the boys wasted no time in taking up arms and driving the kilometre or so to an access point that would allow them to hike deep into the gorge for an afternoon foray.

Alone, I surveyed the territory close to camp to assess it for photographic opportunities. The predicted rain had commenced so I left the cameras under cover and wandered with an umbrella. Reconnaissance. Fifty metres from camp, I noted five mature kurrajongs and the remnants of a settler's hut―some corner posts, a toppled, galvanised water tank, and the decorative head and foot of a dilapidated iron bedstead. I mused that a monochromatic rendition would suit the subject matter.

Next I skirted the rim of the escarpment looking for vantage points affording a view of the river's disconnected pools against a backdrop of interleaved ridges converging in the gorge, and the cliff face of the South Brother with its dash of white excrement betraying an eyrie ledge used by peregrine falcons. I wondered if I would see one of the birds that I had adopted as my logo.

The rough-barked apple trees (Angophora floribunda) flanking the river were in full flower and living up to their latin species name, floribunda (abundant flowers). The profusion of their creamy inflorescences was magnificent, contrasting with the varied greens of spear grass, she-oaks, black cypress pines, Blakelys red gums and mugga ironbarks. The rough-barked apples are not fruit trees, as their common name implies. They're relatives of the eucalypts, but without the latter's timber quality. As fuel their light, fibrous wood is rubbish, and violent summer storms will often tear large limbs from them. Nevertheless, at the height of summer, they add their welcome garnish of blossoms to the hardened landscape. Ray, the owner of the property on which we were camped, likens their appearance to giant cauliflowers. It's an apt comparison.

I found a knoll that commanded an almost unobstructed view of a line of cauliflowers tapering into the gorge below the peregrine's cliff. There were just a few twigs protruding from dead trees into the field of view. A few minutes work throwing rocks and helicoptering sticks through the opening cleared away the potential of out-of-focus blemishes in the composition. With the landscape gardening completed, I returned to camp, thinking about the various ways I could photograph the scene when I returned the next day with my camera and tripod. The best laid plans...

The boys returned with prime cuts of wild goat for the camp oven and we got a robust ironbark campfire going with the help of a dry beer carton. The firewood was only surface wet from the rain...which kept coming...all night...and almost continuously for the remainder of the trip.

On Sunday morning the boys returned to the gorge and I sat in a camp chair under shelter waiting for breaks that would allow me to do some photography. There were few, and I didn't get back to the knoll to get my cauliflower shots. My landscape gardening had been wasted effort. Oh, time. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Let me see, there must be something I can photograph close to camp...

By the way, happy birthday Mr Beaujangles!

Visual grammarA few photographs from the 'Little Valley' trip, December 2014.


The recognition, in real life, of a rhythm of surfaces, lines and values is for me the essence of photography; composition should be a constant preoccupation, being a simultaneous coalition, an organic coordination of visual elements — Henri Cartier Bresson
Why limit yourself to what your eyes see when you have an opportunity to extend your vision — Edward Weston

(wowfactorpix) abstracts fire goats gorges observation point of view position trees visual grammar |698.1612 Sat, 10 Jan 2015 02:13:51 GMT
Good judge bad judge

Retire? Retire from what? Life? I will only retire when I am dead! — Alfred Eisenstaedt

Towards the end of 2008, four years after being lured back into photography during the digital revolution, and having joined a camera club and the Australian Photographic Society, I was increasingly dissatisfied with where my photography was heading under the prevailing influences of the camera club movement. I wanted to do more than become a competent camera operator who could follow accepted rules and produce photographs that met with the approval of the establishment. I could do that stuff. I wanted more. There had to be more.

The catalyst to escaping from the rut was growing frustration with the general run of judges encountered through my camera club. Few were inspiring. Meeting after meeting I found myself listening to and questioning voice-recorded or written comments from judges who volunteered their time, it must be said, to critique members' competition images. I'd mutter under my breath things like: "Can't you make any comment other than a techno-centric one"; "Does it matter so much that there's subject movement?"; "Does everything have to be 'tack sharp'?"; "Do all shadows need to reveal detail?"; "Must all compositions follow the hoary rule-of-bloody-thirds?"; "Is a centred horizon or centred subject always to be shunned?"; "Does depth-of-field always have to be deeper?"; yada-yada.

So many judges were, in my opinion, visually constipated. I decided to appropriate Mahatma Gandhi's words―Be the change that you want to see in the world.

Visual constipation: inability to pass the Rule of Thirds ― Rob Smith
In 2009 I enrolled in a creative photography course conducted by two retired academics I had never met and who are now friends: Emeritus Professor Des Crawley and Dr Roy Killen. On one weekend per month for five months I drove to Sydney to attend lectures and workshops presented by Des, Roy and some prominent figures in the Australian photography industry and photographic art world. The curriculum was designed to give students an appreciation of the history and heritage of photography, the tools (visual literacy) to develop their photography as a means of self-expression that remains true to the heritage of the medium, and the ability to visualise and make images that meet the communication objectives set for them by the maker. In short, it was focussed on the art of photography rather than the craft of photography; the creative and fulfilling stuff as opposed to the tack sharp rule-of-thirdsy stuff!

I was hooked and remember saying to myself within 15 minutes of listening to Des's opening presentation..."This is where I need to be. This is where I must go with my photography".

On the final weekend, those of us who aspired to become accredited judges were put through our paces doing stand-up judging of panels of images we'd not seen before to an audience of fellow students and mentor judges. It was a revelation to me. I discovered why so many judges talk about The Rule of Thirds, sharpness, and all those other dry craft attributes of photographs. It's so easy...compared to studying images for design and ideas that photographers may have been trying to express...and giving photographers encouragement and principles (not rules) they can explore in order to develop their own artistic voice,  the art in their own photography. It wasn't easy to evaluate images in terms other than technical attributes. But it was necessary.

The role of a judge in the camera club movement is to be an agent of change, a mentor, and a coach to aspiring photographers. It's not good enough, in my opinion, for a judge to simply rate an image based on its compliance with 'rules'. There are no rules for art.

Photographers should follow their own judgment, and not the fads and dictates of others ― Bill Brandt

I know that my own photography has improved as a result of endeavouring to critique others' images on more than a superficial level. It's a pathway available to all, even those who do not aspire to judge photography. Oh, and by the way, 'critique' does not mean criticise. I'm delighted if I can find nothing but good things to say about an image I'm critiquing. Some judges, I feel, seem to think that their job is merely to point out perceived faults, or deviations from the way they might have approached the opportunity.

Cold caw1/250th · f5.6 · 260mm · ISO 200 · tripod

  • Visualisation: a sense of cold and mystery in the mist
  • A formal, centred composition
  • High key treatment punctuated by the raven
  • Raven composited—absent from the tree frame but present at the site that morning (raven call in video recorded in western NSW)

Indeed, I feel the simplest approach can often be most effective. A subject placed squarely in the centre of the frame, if attention is not distracted from it by fussy surroundings, has a simple dignity which makes it all the more impressive ― Bill Brandt

Gondwana robesEbor NSW: The ramparts of New England's Great Escarpment are the shoulders of the ancient Ebor volcano. Come with me for a taste of Gondwanaland.

(wowfactorpix) Alfred Eisenstaedt Bill Brandt Gondwana critiques crows judges ravens |675.1612 Wed, 17 Dec 2014 23:00:19 GMT
Yesterday & today Yesterday I stopped working to live. Today I start living to work—on my dreams. Retired!

I feel like I'm about to start on my life's creative work, second only to the job that Ruby and I have done together raising three fine boys of whom we are so proud.

On Monday I'll wake to a new paradigm―"What do I want to do today?" So exciting.

Reed warblers

As a boy I used to ride my bike three miles from my home to the water supply reservoir that is now known as Lake Inverell; in my rucksack a water bottle, a snack, a notebook and a pair of 8x30 binoculars. Those school holiday and weekend expeditions nurtured what has become a lifelong interest in wildlife, particularly birds. I obtained a degree in zoology and then, ironically, spent the next 35 years of my life working in the electricity industry as an IT professional and latterly as a corporate photographer and videographer. I have never turned a wheel with my tertiary qualification. The irony has been all good, though.

One of the birds I was interested in was the Australian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus australis), a summer migrant that nests along the margins of rivers and lakes. In those days I found them difficult to lock onto with binoculars. These days, with a camera, they are even more testing.

Reed warbler frustrationHaiku:<br/>are trembling blades<br/>All that she'll bare to my lens<br/>reed warbler

With a long telephoto lens, the first challenge is to get them in the sights, the viewfinder. The greater the magnification of the lens, the narrower the field of view, and the harder it is to lock onto a moving target in the viewfinder.

Next you have to get them in focus. If they stay in the one place long enough for you to achieve the first two actions, you may have a chance to fire off a few shots. More often than not, though, I find that they're exiting the frame again just as they're coming into focus. Flighty little blighters! Then it's repeat-the-process. "Now where did he go?"

In the last year, I've revisited my childhood birdwatching haunts a few times. I've been more interested in shooting video than stills because I'm not equipped for long-range wildlife photography of the highest technical quality. However, with a 2X teleconverter on my longest telephoto lens, I can shoot with an effective focal length of 800mm. That's equivalent to using a pair of 16X binoculars. Although the still images I capture with this rig are not the best that my camera's sensor is capable of producing (contrast and resolution is compromised by the teleconverter) the quality is adequate for shooting high definition (HD) video.

An advantage of shooting fidgety feathered folk with video is capturing 30 frames per second. On higher spec' cameras you can capture 60 or 120 frames per second. This improves the chances of capturing decisive moments when the quarry is doing something interesting. From the video footage, I extract HD resolution frames (1920x1080 pixels) as JPG files. Shooting JPGs is a quantum step behind shooting raw stills as I normally do, but, acknowledging the JPG format limitations—and the lower HD resolution of the video frames compared to shooting raw format stills at the camera's native resolution—I still believe there's merit in the video approach. The still images I  extract from the video can be of sufficient quality to produce images that are satisfying to view on a computer monitor or TV.

As even higher resolution video capabilities become more affordable in consumer cameras (4K video and higher bitrate formats that offer some of the benefits of raw capture), I can see more wildlife photographers exploring the video option. With a 4K video camera, one can capture 8 megapixel images. That's four times the resolution of today's mainstream HD video format. It may be hard for me to resist a GAS attack (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) when the cost of acquiring and processing 4K video footage comes within reach! It's not just the camera that needs capability, but also the computer power needed to process the footage. Some photographers forget that when they think bigger is better.

Reed warblers of InverellThe Australian Reed-warbler (Acrocephalus australis) is a challenging species to photograph. It's fidgety and rarely remains still long enough, while in full view, for photographers to acquire focus and compose the shot.

Perhaps the best opportunities to photograph reed warblers occur in places where they are accustomed to humans, such as along the walking track beside the Macintyre River in the heart of Inverell.

The best images in this audio-visual are stills lifted from video footage. At the time—2014—this was the best way for me to capture the peak of the action. Nowadays, I have more sophisticated equipment that improves my odds remarkably.

wild in my heart
free song

Canadian compliment

I have some wonderful friends in photography. Recently, one of them gave me a compliment that really appealed to my sense of humour. Denise is of Canadian origin and I have nicknamed her 'c@nuck'. Over coffee one day, I was lamenting to her the few typographical errors that slipped past my proof reading of the first edition of 'Time passages', saying that I was disappointed because I didn't want my first attempt at producing a proper photography book to be half-arsed. She replied in her lovely Canadian accent...

Nothing you do is half-assed, Rob. It's fully assed!— Denise McDermott
*DCM. Let the adventures begin.

iSee...iPhotograph...iLive— ®

* "Don't come Monday."

(wowfactorpix) birdwatching childhood creativity haiku life passion photography reed warblers video stills |582.1612 Sat, 06 Dec 2014 09:54:47 GMT
How's the serenity Thank you to all who sent messages of affirmation for the return of the Picture Postcard. 

There were some gremlins skulking about the place and I know that some subscribers experienced 'no shows' with some of the interactive content. Thanks for informing me. I've investigated, found the problems and corrected them. If you experienced some glitches with the last issue, you should find that all is well now if you care to revisit it.

It's all Greek to me

The short video below illustrates one of the joys I find in photography: the discovery of visual significance in everyday surroundings when the eyes and mind are tuned to seeing beyond the ordinary. There's no magic or special power required to do it. I believe that anyone who doesn't sell themselves short as having no imagination can train themselves to look, think, imagine and then regularly see compelling visual relationships and juxtapositions. The rewards for a long look are satisfying. The making of the image "It's all Greek to me"


We spent a few days visiting family in Toowoomba in June. I had set myself an assignment to find an image to print and frame as a house warming gift for some special people. One morning I had a few hours to myself and drove a back road that zig-zagged down the shoulders of the Great Dividing Range to the coastal plain west of Brisbane.

A stand of pale gum trees beside Flagstone Creek looked promising and I pulled off the main road onto a blue metal driveway that disappeared into bushland. It was the entrance to someone's idyllic bush retreat and, although ungated, it passed between a couple of short sections of stout, white painted, timber fence that, while not exactly like the grand entrance to the Ewing dynasty's 'South Fork' ranch, were making something of a statement in the rustic setting.

When I drove a few metres through the entrance and made a U turn preparatory to parking my car on the verge of the bitumen before going for a wander with my camera, I saw the message painted on the side of the fence hidden from the main road.

How's the serenity—Darryl Kerrigan

How's the serenityHow's the serenityUpper Flagstone Creek Road, Toowoomba.

I just had to smile and feel a warmth toward the owners of the property. As a fan of that great Aussie movie, 'The Castle', I immediately recognised the quotation and felt empathy for the owners who had painted the message to remind themselves why they love their little piece of Australia each an every time they drive out of the entrance into the world beyond.

Quote from 'The Castle' (YouTube 44s)

I digress? Well, if the owners were so rapt in the serenity, I felt confident that there was an image to be found. The smooth barked eucalypts were the attraction for me and I shot some frames with a telephoto lens to emphasise the feeling of a thicket of trees. The inherent compression effect of the telephoto lens made the trees in the background appear crowded in with those in the foreground. The title 'Garrison' occurred to me as I photographed because the mass of tree trunks resembled a fortification. The images in the interactive group below illustrate the evolution of the image from the camera capture to the image I was visualising as the outcome when I would later get it onto my computer to play with.

Every garrison needs a few soldiers and the soldiers in my garrison would be Australian birds. All of the species included can be found in the Flagstone Creek area, despite my images of them having been collected across time and geography: 2006 Lake Awoonga; 2008 Crowdy Bay National Park, Strzelecki Desert and Tibooburra;  2013 Lake Cathie.

Garrison 1/8th · f11 · 185mm · ISO 200 · tripod

  • I hope that this image shows how visualising an outcome via future processing—before pressing the shutter—can lead to extraordinary images made in ordinary places.
  • I use Lightroom (Lr) to make rough sketches of a processed outcome before diving into Photoshop (Ps) to do the heavy lifting.
  • The Before image shows how dull the lighting was. The illusion of luminance in the final image could not have been achieved in camera.
  • Warm tints in the foreground trees and cool tints in the background enhance the sense of depth. Warm tones advance, cool tones recede.
  • Individual layer masks were tailored from the master B&W Ps MASK for each of the tinted areas.

Of course I Photoshopped it. I'm an artist!—Rob Smith

View on'Garrison'

View 'Garrison' on

(wowfactorpix) The Castle image evolution imagination montage photo photography post-processing quotations trees |442.1612 Sat, 15 Nov 2014 11:58:24 GMT
The return of the Picture Postcard The making of the image 'Sunbathers' Welcome back!

After an absence of 21 months, the Picture Postcard is back in cyberprint—thanks to me now having the time I need to do it justice. On the cusp of an exciting new chapter, I will soon retire and do what I am meant to do: practising; learning; presenting; writing; teaching; a truly photographic life.

From now on, the Picture Postcard exists in the form of this blog annexed to my website. Posts will be brief, more accessible on a range of devices, and more regular.

The style of content will be similar to the old Picture Postcard but more interactive and, I hope, more useful for those who share a passion for photography. Video and sound will play a role in the new delivery, as they do in my presentations and workshops.

Let's get started!

Why so passionate about photography?

It teaches me to see. When you're a photographer you see the world in a different way. You notice things that go unnoticed by others. How do I know this? Because I've heard non-photographers remarking so often: "How did you see that?"; "Why didn't I see that?"; when looking at serious photographers' photographs.

I look, I see, I feel. That's a part of me—the way I feel about things that I see in the world around me: nature; drama; beauty; horror; harmony; rhythm; pathos; design; name a few. Through photography I have a chance to show other people how I feel about stuff. That's both exciting and fulfilling; reason enough to be passionate.

Dorothea Lange said "The camera is an instrument that teaches people to see without a camera." That might sound like an abstruse or flippant comment. It's so simple but true.

As a photographer, I look at the world around me with what I like to call rectangular intent...even when I'm not carrying a camera. It's what happens when you become addicted to this art. There's something wonderful about excising a snippet of the scene beheld and enclosing it in a rectangle, the bounds of a photographic study. By doing so we are saying to those who would look at the photograph, "This is what engaged my eye and heart when I was there. Above all else, this is how I saw it—what I kept of the experience".

To photograph is to confer importance—Susan Sontag

It's as simple as that.

Mortal elegance

We arrived at the Wilson River Nature Reserve at 09:00 in the morning, a group of friends in photography. Laid before us was a rainforest habitat, a crystal river, and the prospect of a day to explore it with our eyes and imaginations.

Agreeing to meet back at the picnic area at noon for lunch and discussion, we each went our own ways.

I walked across a rustic timber bridge and into the shade of the trackless forest, keeping the tumbling river within earshot. I knew the water, always full of promise, would draw me like a magnet as usual, but determined first to explore the damp forest margin as I headed upstream. It's too easy to fall into the trap of repeating what comes easily.

I hadn't gone far when I discovered a story. Up ahead, a glimpse of red among the greens and browns caught my eye. Soon I was standing over a bedraggled smatter of red and blue feathers and grey down pasted on earth and a rotting log; the grounded remains of a crimson rosella (Platycercus elegans) known to bushmen as the mountain lowry. Even after death I felt that the scant remains of its vivid feathers were living up to its Latin name.

What had killed it? Because of the habitat, my guess was a grey goshawk (Accipiter novaehollandiae), an agile raptor with powerful legs and talons and short wings for manoeuvrability among the trees and vines of forest. I imagined the rosella's alarm call, a short chase, the flurry of feathers, and the piercing vice grip—then silence.

Mortal elegance1s · f8 · 100mm · ISO 100 · tripod · reflected flash

  • Added flash reflected off a white cloth draped over nearby palms. Light reflected from a large surface has a softer quality than the harsh blast from the flash's small window. This subject needed a soft touch.
  • Brushed away some debris using Adobe Lightroom spot removal tool. The undertaker prepares a corpse to look its best for a funeral!
  • Variations produced in Lightroom & Photoshop

Paint the flying spirit of the bird rather than its feathers—Robert Henri

View on'Sunbathers'

View 'Sunbathers' on

(wowfactorpix) birds creativity education image evolution photography post-processing |541.1612 Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:48:17 GMT
'Time passages'—The book Time passages—Transcending the eye's instant    by Rob Smith AAPS

A book about creative photography using slow exposures: the creative process and the equipment.

Size: 28x20cm, 80 pages, landscape format, hardcover


  • photographs (how and why they were made)
  • inspirational quotes on creativity by photographers, artists, and writers
  • insights
  • ideas and techniques you can use

Signed with a personal greeting.

Price: *$95.00 + $10 p&p (within Australia) 2nd EDITION SOLD OUT

Some excerpts from the book.

Front cover and spine

"There are no rules for good photographs, there are just good photographs" — ANSEL ADAMS




(wowfactorpix) books creativity imagination photography |325.1612 Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:54:19 GMT
Test new Picture Postcard Hello,

I've sent this message to the few people who have registered on my Zenfolio website, and a couple of ring-ins. I hope you don't mind being a guinea pig.

Soon I will relaunch, as a blog, the Picture Postcard—a newsletter that I first published in 2006. I haven't published a PP since January 2013. Changes in my circumstances will soon see me with time available to resurrect it. As blogging is less labour intensive than the way I used to produce the PP, that makes me happy.

I want the Blog to have a useful feature that existed in the previous Picture Postcards produced as interactive PDFs; the ability for the reader to toggle before and after images, to better understand the text narrative.

This Blog entry is a skeletal prototype—a preview.

If you view it on a desktop, you can toggle the 'before' and 'after' images by clicking the buttons below the image.

If you view it on a tablet, you should achieve the same effect by briefly holding on a button and releasing. I've tested it on an iPad and an Android tablet and it seems to work OK once you get the hang of the touch-hold-release routine.

I'm interested to know whether this post's intended functionality works OK for you. By clicking the BEFORE button you should be able to see the image as captured by the camera. Click the AFTER button to restore the processed version.

I'd appreciate you posting a comment to let me know. You may wish to subscribe using the RSS link above, or register on my site. I will use my site's contact list to send future notifications of posts.

Feel free to share with anyone.

The bird is a Reed Warbler that I photographed beside the Macintyre River in Inverell a couple of weeks ago. I'll have more to say about my quest to photograph this elusive species in an edition of Picture Postcard in the near future.

Kind regards,


Lord of the reeds 

Reed warblerHaiku:are trembling blades all that she'll bare to my lens reed warbler

(wowfactorpix) audio-visual photography post-processing reed warblers video |286.1612 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 05:38:47 GMT