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Yesterday & today

December 06, 2014  •  25 Comments

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 '[email protected]'. 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."


Robyn Mussett(non-registered)
I just looked through the comments from 2 years ago and can't believe I didn't say something then so two years on - you haven't let your dream fade away, in fact I think your passion has become stronger.

" time to live the photographic vision and inspire others.
go forward with camera in hand....and give us more."

You certainly have given us more, thank you.
des crawley(non-registered)
Congratulations on making/ensuring that your retirement plans are being fulfilled. Your powers of communication with words, music and image are an inspiration to us all.
Beautiful work Rob....
Tony Sullivan(non-registered)
i like your work and I like your approach. I think I can learn from you.
You've taken me on another lovely trip into the countryside.
Once again you prove yourself to be the Master of all things artistic.
Would that I could you.
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