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Category Archives: Nature photography

Photography of and about nature.

A photographer’s ‘fish story,’ literally

When the full moon is set to rise into a clear sky over a calm ocean at dusk, you know it is going to be a great photo opportunity.

Bring on the golden-red colours, the presaging glow, the first glimpse of the sliver of disk peeping above the watery horizon, the silver path of light on the rippling waves!

This was the moment on Tuross Head Beach last weekend, with the moon at its fullest and rising into the fading light of an early mid-winter evening.

Sedate but swift, the moon rises

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On this magic night the moonrise is a slowly moving visual feast, clinging to the ocean with a spectacular light-drop effect, then drifting upwards between the layered clouds. As I take photo after photo, the sky darkens, and the moon begins to lighten.   While it still beams with a deep russet glow, I frame up the cloud-bespeckled moon yet again, trying to keep the barely visible sea horizon level. I take the photo.

Suddenly, an eagle

A split-second later, with the sound of my camera shutter still ringing in my years,  an Australian sea eagle dives directly in front of the full moon, head down and wings spread, magnificently limned in the moon’s ruddy glow.

The eagle plunges into the sea like an arrow, to snatch one last fishy meal from the water as darkness closes in.  And I missed the perfect photo by milliseconds!

Later, reviewing my images, I did find at least photographic evidence of my story of the ‘one that got away’ – this lovely photo of the eagle making its approach from just above the moon.

eagle-moon-small

 

The moons sails the night sky

Soon the moon fades to silver-white, lighting the waves and heading off on its journey to illuminate the night for other entranced viewers.

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Photographs: All photos by Sabrina Caldwell. Other than resizing for web-use, no alterations have been made except that ‘Sea eagle over moon’ photo was cropped.
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The Case of the Venezuelan Poodle Moth

I love how we can find out practically anything at a moment’s notice simply by Googling it. But the trouble with this type of instant information is that Internet content is by its nature highly fallible when it comes to accuracy. Put another way, there’s a lot of fiction mixed in with the facts. And because we are usually moving quickly through the information presented to us, we can misunderstand but still think we know.

Take the case of the Venezuelan Poodle Moth for example.  When I Googled this interesting sounding animal, the snap ‘info window’ on the right hand side of the search results (Fig 1) displayed several images and a short Wikipedia blurb.

Google results for Venezuelan Poodle Moth

Fig. 1: Google/Firefox Venezuelan Poodle Moth info window 5 Dec. 2015

My first impression of this moth was gleaned from this info window – the photographs, the authoritative comment from Wikipedia, the taxonomic classification. My reaction: could this moth be any cuter? I don’t think so. I instantly wanted to have them in my garden, or keep one as a pet. And to think that Nature dreamed up something so adorable, that even flies!

Or did she?    —    Well, maybe. It is an open question, and it depends on which image you are looking at.  Let’s do a bit of data mining on the visual and textual information supplied in Google’s info window and see if my first impressions of this moth were based on fact or fiction.

The images

There are seven images (not counting the ‘People also search for’ section). Two are identical, and the main photo and photo at top right are very similar. Are they all images of the Venezuelan Poodle Moth? No.

For starters, if you’re looking at the gorgeous fluffy white moth with the black striated antennae in the main image, or the smaller image at top right, you aren’t looking at a real Venezuelan Poodle Moth, or even any sort of a real moth.

You’re looking at a beautiful moth sculpture made of wool felt. What’s more, you’re not even looking at a wool felt sculpture of a Venezuelan Poodle Moth, but a Bombyx mori, or Silk moth.

This cute little piece of art is part of a larger art sculpture (Fig 2) exhibited at the Itami City Museum of Insects in Hyogo Japan in 2008.[9,10,12]. It appears to be by a Japanese artist named Hakoiri. You can see this and more of Hakoiri’s sculptures here .

Hakoiri wool felt sculpture at Itami City Museum of Insects photo by filmskiandwhatnow_tumblr_n4s2r3z7Zq1rxzlvxo3_500

Fig. 2: Wool felt sculpture of silk moth lifecycle by Hakoiri. Clockwise from left: caterpillar, pupae, male, eggs, female all on bed of Mulberry leaves (silk caterpillars’ favourite food) [3] Photo by Tumblr photographer ‘filmskiandwhatnow’

Beautiful art, but scarcely evidence of a new species of real moth, and rather misleadingly included in the information with which we have been presented.

The remaining images are real moths. Some have been taken by Dr Arthur Anker, the zoologist Wikipedia identifies as the discoverer of the Poodle Moth. Some have not. Are they Poodle Moths? Mostly no.

If you are looking at the photo of the moth in the middle top row to the right of the main picture, you are looking at a Muslin moth (Diaphora mendica) [4].

Muslin moth DrPhotoMoto-Flickr

Fig. 3: Muslin Moth-photo by Flickr photographer Dr PhotoMoto [4]

This moth is associated with the Venezuelan Poodle Moth because some experts think they might be related, and also because the photographer named the moth as a ‘Poodle Moth’ on his Flickr site in addition to its correct name.[4]

If you are looking at the photo of the moth in the right bottom row to the right of the main picture (Fig. 4) you are looking at an unidentified moth by an unidentified photographer. It looks a bit like a portrait of an Emperor Gum moth to me, but only an entomologist can know for sure.

Maybe an Emperor Gum moth?

Fig. 4: Unidentified moth by unidentified photographer

I was unable to find any evidence of this photo having been taken by Dr Anker, despite reviewing his entire collection of Lepidoptera photos on his Flickr site. This moth photo appears to have become associated with the Venezuelan Poodle moth through sites that are erroneously including this photo as an example of the Venezuelan Poodle moth.

If you are looking at the photo of the moth in the middle bottom row to the right of the main picture, you are looking at a moth that was photographed by Dr Anker; he calls it simply a “Cute Moth” (Fig. 5).

Cute Moth by Dr Arthur Anker

Fig. 5: “Cute Moth” – Dr Arthur Anker Flickr site

This moth has also become associated with the Venezuelan Poodle moth through co-location on sites ranging from Dr Anker’s Flickr photostream to quasi-scientific news sites that have been including this photo as an example of a Venezuelan Poodle Moth.[5,6]  But Dr Anker does not claim this to be a Poodle Moth.

The Venezuelan Poodle Moth?

Lastly, if you are looking at the remaining two identical photos (Fig 6), you  may be finally looking at a Venezuelan Poodle Moth.

Poodle Moth by Dr Anker

Fig. 6: “Poodle Moth” by Dr Arhur Anker, Gran Sabana Venezuela

This photo is by Dr Anker, who states the photo date was 1 January 2009, and can be seen in various resolutions on Dr Anker’s Flickr site here.

Although there is no reference original image to identify any manipulations, this image is at least cropped. The moth is obviously quite hairy;  with two of its legs crossed in front of it and  5 of its 6 legs showing in the photo, it takes on an extra level of fluffy cuteness. The image caption by Dr Anker is “Poodle moth (Artace sp, perhaps A. cribaria), Venezuela.”

At last we have come to the one unique photograph of the moth in question!  We have to adjust our understanding of the Venezuelan Poodle moth to just that one photo. And although it isn’t quite what we first expected from our Google snap info, let’s face it, it is rather adorable.

And actually, does bear a marked resemblance to a poodle (for a moth).

Poodle Moth and Toy Poodle

The text and taxonomy of the Venezuelan Poodle Moth

The text blurb accompanying this extraordinary range of images reads:

“The Venezuelan Poodle Moth is a possible new species of moth discovered in 2009 by Dr Arthur Anker of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in the Gran Sabana region of Venezuela. Wikipedia.

Higher Classification: Artace
Rank: Species”

This looks very authoritative, doesn’t it?  And frankly, like Mulder in The X-Files, I want to believe. It is evident from his 134 academic papers that Dr Anker is a respected zoologist, particularly in the field of crustaceans, especially shrimps.[11] He can therefore be assumed to be acting in good faith in presenting this moth photo as evidence of a possible new species.

But in reality, at the present time there is currently no formally identified moth by the name of the Venezuelan Poodle Moth. There is only a photo of a moth with a whimsical name. The moth is very far from scientifically described.

We have no information on its size or other physical details, its lifecycle or its specific habitat. We do not have a specimen in any collection as far as we know. Without even the most basic of information, it is difficult to ascertain from the photo that the moth is of a previously unknown species of moth from the genus Artace.

However, I can’t say it will not eventually be a Venezuelan Poodle Moth, given it is as yet unidentified and could one day be a new species, which could give Dr Anker naming rights to the moth, which he may then give the common name Venezuelan Poodle Moth, although I think ‘Anker’s Poodle Moth’ has a nice ring to it too.

In summary

So, in separating fiction from fact, I would say that the Google info window results would leave the casual observer convinced that this moth exists, that it is large, fuzzy and friendly, and that it comes in a variety of colours.

As a reminder, here is the Google results window I started with:

poodlemoth_googleresults

The reality of the Venezuelan Poodle Moth is that at present it doesn’t exist, although a photo of a lovely unidentified moth with the title ‘Poodle Moth’ from Venezuela does exist in Dr Anker’s Flickr photostream. Certainly it isn’t the over-the-top-cute fuzzy moth that could be held in the hand (because it was a wool felt sculpture). It also doesn’t come in the orange and white variants (as far as we know) that the info window evokes.

However, Google results to the contrary, this is all we know about the Venezuelan Poodle Moth:

Zoologist Dr Arthur Anker has uploaded an image to Flickr of an unusual and possibly new species of moth he reports having photographed in the Gran Sabana area of Venezuela, and he has called it a ‘Poodle Moth’ (illustrated below) and tentatively suggested it to be in the Artace genus of Lepidoptera.

Venezuelan Poodle Moth

“Poodle moth (Artace sp, perhaps A. cribaria), Venezuela.”

Really Google, was that so hard to say?


References
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[1] Per animaldiversity.org (if this species is new and is in the Artace genus) it would be taxonomically located in the family tree as: Kingdom: Animalia – Class: Insecta – Order: Lepidoptera – Superfamily: Lasiocampoidea – Family: Lasiocampidae – Genus: Artace
Source: http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Artace/classification/ Accessed 5 December 2015.
[2] “Venezuelan Poodle Moth” http://www.snopes.com/photos/animals/poodlemoth.asp Accessed 5 December 2015.
[3] Abad-Santos, Alexander. Venezuelan Poodle Moth is the Internet’s Favorite Pet this week. The Wire. 30 August 2012. http://www.thewire.com/entertainment/2012/08/venezuelan-poodle-moth-internets-favorite-real-life-pokemon-tk/56373/. Accessed 5 December 2015.
[4] Shuker, Karl. Mystery of the Venezuelan Poodle Moth – Have you seen this insect??. 22 August 2012.  http://karlshuker.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/mystery-of-venezuelan-poodle-moth-have.html Accessed 5 December 2015.
[5] ‘boredpanda’. 21 more strange animals you didn’t know exist. http://www.boredpanda.com/unusual-animals/. Accessed 6 December 2015.
[6]  Avax News. Venezuelan Poodle Moth. 13 January 2013. http://avax.news//fact/Venezuelan_Poodle_Moth.html. Accessed 6 December 2015.
[7] Abovetopsecret. The Bizzarre yet awesome Venezuelan Poodle Moth – Facts behind the hype 6 May 2013. http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread945477/pg1&mem=ratcals. Accessed 6 December 2015
[8] https://www.flickr.com/photos/artour_a/albums/72157601355579575/page6
[9]filmskiandwhatnow.tumblr.com/post/84746005790/fyeahcutebugs-hakoiri-bombyx-mori-of-wool. Accessed 7 December 2015.
[10] Itami City Museum of Insects. http://www.itakon.com/. Accessed 7 December 2015
[11] Arthur Anker. Universidade Federal do Ceara, Labomar. ufc.academia.edu/anker. Accessed 9 December 2015.
[12] http://www.geocities.jp/mekr200/hakoiri/pg118.html.  Accessed 10 December 2015. The almost intelligible Google Translate translation of his artist’s statement is “Mozomozo – worms, insects Exhibition” was produced in order to participate in the exhibition that, for the first time and made insects moth of the first issue also Fumofu in wool felt, are you silkworm like that silkworm adult. And make try to, I’m more insect of wool felt facing is the Was … cute I think I think we do not, silkworm. By Chimachima flocked to thin legs, it was also representing the Fumofu feeling. Apparently so people mother’s generation is Kuwabata around us until the time of your elementary school was a lot, but I’m willing to talk about the silkworm it’s mon were grown until it emerged in the pupae from larvae, I brought up unfortunately It has never  been. It was for sure, and vowed to mind someday.”
[13] Toy Poodle. FreePik. http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/poodle. Accessed 10 Dec 2015.
Postscript —
For those of you wondering how I happened to take an interest in the Venezuelan Poodle Moth, it was like this:
I had the idea that it would be interesting to do a post for my Matched Set series on the cheeses of Monty Python’s The Cheese Shop skit.  As it turns out, someone else already had the idea, but in the process of looking around, I decided to Google that most infamous of cheeses, the Venezuelan Beaver Cheese.  : )  In the results was a reference to the Venezuelan Poodle Moth, and who could resist learning more about a Venezuelan Poodle Moth?  And so the saga began…
 

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Max Rive’s The Ice Prison: Photo-critique of Epson 2015 International Pano Award-winner

In Spanish

Recently I’ve been thinking it’s time to do another photo-critique.  Strangely, as I mused on the possibility of doing the critique on a recent Epson Pano award-winning photograph taken in the Himalayan mountains (which appealed to my appreciation of ‘effortful’ photography), a reader of my blog sent me a query asking what I thought of that very photo.  That was the added incentive I needed to spur my thoughts into action. In undertaking my photo-critique, I am using the steps I arrived at in my post Critiquing photography: A different perspective. Based on this approach, here is my review of Max Rive’s The Ice Prison.

The Ice Prison The Himalayas, Nepal 2015 Epson International Pano Award Winner

The Ice Prison [1]
The Himalayas, Nepal
2015 Epson International Pano Award Winner

The Ice Prison by photographer Max Rive

The photograph – artistic elements and impressions

Max Rive’s award-winning panoramic image of the interior of a Himalayan ice-cave with a view to the Ama Dablam mountain is exquisitely beautiful. Sinuous folds of sheet ice sweep in a wave up the right side of the cave egress, drawing the eye from the soft ice curves to the wickedly sharp icycles depending from the cave mouth. To the center right, an ice formation resembles a seated, cowled woman gazing through the aperture of the cavern out to Ama Dablam, whose peaks thrust proud of the clouds in sunlit shades of white and ochre. Her almost subliminal presence lends a sense of human scale and warmth to an otherwise gelid landscape.  To the left and right, the fenestrated walls of translucent ice allow soft light to inflitrate the cave. The scene is balanced, serene, majestic.

Content and meaning

There is a genius in the way Rive engages with us, the viewers, by figuratively placing us inside the cave, looking out through the icycle fringed cave mouth towards the sunlit peaks of the distant mountain range. Immediately, we are connected to the image because to understand it we almost compulsorily must place ourselves inside the grotto, surrounded by ice walls, looking out. And it is in this placement that the meaning behind the title of the image becomes intelligible – we are the prisoners, in a cold cell, whose enclosure is completed by the long, dangerous looking icycles that bar our way. Mutably, it could also be that the ice figure of the woman is the prisoner, forever entombed and immobile in her ice prison. In the best artistic tradition, it is probably both. Yet according to Rive’s comments on the photo, the grotto from which we look out is actually quite small. He says that “The camera was almost put inside a small hole in the wall. Using a tripod was not possible.”[2] So clearly, we can be inside it only through our imagination facilitated by Rive’s photographic imagery. Effectively, Rive has taken us where no-one has gone or ever could go.

Technical components

Technically, the image is almost perfect. All elements of the image are in balance and harmony but not predictably so. There is an energy in the balance, a range of forces that move our vision around the image, from side to side and from inside to outside. In Rive’s image the tiny becomes vast, and the vast becomes tiny. There is a play of proximity and distance, light and dark, smooth and sharp. The colour is deft; the image is almost monochromatic shades of blue-gray, with just those crucial touches of yellow and orange ochres in the Ama Dablam mountain peak to draw the eye from the almost overwhelming foreground ice landscape out and into the far distance.  There is one element in the image that slightly jars my immersion in the scene and that is the far left trapezoidal gap in the ice wall whose margins do not seem completely integrated into their surrounds and this could be usefully reviewed.

In his short description of the photo, Mr Rive comments that he hiked up a snow covered mountain with crampons to a small opening that he thought might have a view of one of the prominent mountains in the Himalayas, Ama Dablam. His subsequent extensive work in his digital darkroom to bring this image to us was done with a masterful hand. For me, this is certainly an example of the ‘effortful photography’ that I have commented on and admired in the past.

Photograph or PhotoART

Is the photograph real?  From researching photos by Max Rive online,[5] I found that many of the photos attributed to him appear highly post-processed.  They are beautiful atmospheric images featuring long exposure water shots, and panoramic landscapes, water reflections, star strewn night skies. They have lovely balance and composition, and many are a visual feast for the eyes. Many are no doubt evocative of real locations, but difficult for me to fully believe. The Ice Prison has many of the supernal characteristics of his other works. Rive comments that “The Ice Prison” is a stiched panorama made largely from his fourth and last try at taking the multiple photographs needed: “After shooting the right part with my face just outside the frame I had to switch sides to do the same with the center and the left part.”[3] And he also notes that the various photographs were blended in Photoshop: “Without the blending this shot was technically not possible.”[4] So, as a researcher in photograph authenticity, I have to say that for me this image is an admixture of photograph and photoART (as I have defined in previous posts).

However, the Epson Pano awards do not require entries in the Open Award category to be fully photographic.  In fact, the rules state “Manipulation is allowed but excessive manipulation may be scored down by the judges if not well executed.”[6] Further, I believe that something like this exists, based on Rive’s assertions and description of method, despite his (for me) heavy hand with post-processing techniques. His body of work as I found online seemed to be rooted in the main in the real world, especially those parts that he has special access to by virtue of his mountain-climbing lifestyle.

However, would I expect that this is exactly what I would see were I capable of Rive’s mountain adventures, were I to find the right spot under the right weather and light conditions, and were I to be a miniature person who could stand within the small grotto and look out?  I suspect not.

Summary

Although it’s other-worldly qualities are a bit too glamourised and ethereal for me to whole-heartedly embrace this image as a representative photograph, I like it very much as a brilliant photographically-based artistic image. The Ice Prison is masterful, and a gift from Max Rive to us, enabling us to not only see parts of the planet both great and small that we would otherwise never have seen, but to almost experience them for ourselves.

References
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[1] Image sourced from Max Rive’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/182378168614600/photos/a.182381251947625.1073741828.182378168614600/403573266495088/?type=3&theater. Also available at the Facebook Epson International Pano Awards page at https://www.facebook.com/PanoAwards/photos/pb.259310013359.-2207520000.1445478916./10153637709388360/?type=3&theater.  Copyright Max Rive. Used in accordance with Fair Use provisions of copyright law. Accessed 22 October 2015
[2-4]:  Title and description from Max Rive on the Facebook page for the Epson International Pan Awards:
“This 6 shot panorama was taken in the Himalayas during spring. It was a small distant gape in a snow covered mountain which caused my attention. I mainly wanted to check it out because this ice or snow cave had a view on the 6812 meter high Ama Dablam. Finding a cave is one difficult thing but find one with a great view is much more difficult. After a hike up the mountain with crampons I entered this Ice cave. It was frozen water finding a way through the rocks.
    The composition you see with a view both on the left and the right chamber was very difficult to achieve. The camera was almost put inside a small hole in the wall. Using a tripod was not possible. After shooting the right part with my face just outside the frame I had to switch sides to do the same with the center and the left part. It was a matter of trial and error to get the composition I wanted. The required use of photo stitching made everything even more difficult. It was later that night I discovered that a lot of individual shots were out of focus or unsharp because of camera movement. During both the 2nd and 3rd try the mountain Ama Dablam was totally covered in clouds. My 4th attempt was successful even though I still had to do a lot of blending in photoshop. Without the blending this shot was technically not possible.”
[5]To see 44 of his photos, you can visit his site https://500px.com/maxrivefotograaf. Accessed 22 October 2015
[6] Pano awards rules sourced from https://thepanoawards.com/competition-rules Accessed 22 October 2015

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Matched Set: Kangaroos

Who doesn’t love kangaroos? They are an iconic animal woven into the fabric of the Australian landscape. After more than twenty years living in Australia, I can confirm that they are indeed able to be seen in their natural environments with only a modicum of effort. Here is a photo of an Eastern Grey Kangaroo in the bracken of an empty campground taken in 2004 on a family road trip around the NSW snowfields. Looking back on it, I realise that I really was too close for comfort (no zoom used) because if he’d viewed me as a threat he could have done me some damage with those powerful hind legs, but fortunately for me he didn’t seem to mind.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo in the welcome rain Geehi, NSW 2004

Eastern Grey Kangaroo in the welcome rain
Geehi, NSW 2004

Another place to find kangaroos near Canberra is at Tidbinbilla Nature Park. Just be sure while you’re photographing that imposing kangaroo in the next field

Kangaroo, Tidbinbilla

Kangaroo, Tidbinbilla

 

that you don’t leave your barbecue untended for your lunch to be stolen right off the grill by stealthy emus and swooping kookaburras.

MVC-187X-small

Our friends Don and Robin live in a suburb north of Bateman’s Bay with many patches of remnant native forest. These patches are inhabited by a resident mob of kangaroos. As we came to visit one day in June of this year, three of them were reclining on a street corner enjoying the early morning sun (the curb not visible but I took this through the open car window).

Life is good.

Life is good.

Residents of the area are quite accustomed to giving way to these local inhabitants as they hop about the suburb, but there is much angst when prize roses are on the kangaroos’ menu.

Of course, sometimes kangaroos don’t want to be seen. I don’t even know how I managed to spot this one on the shores of Coila Lake – can you see him in the photo?

DSC02413-shadowyKangaroo-small

Lurking in the shadows

The same kangaroo pictured above did something unexpected not long after I photographed him in the shadows. He jumped into Coila Lake and taught me something that I didn’t know: kangaroos can swim.

Swimming in the brackish waters of Coila Lake

Swimming in the brackish waters of Coila Lake

It is particularly special to run across kangaroos in unexpected places. I have seen a kangaroo hopping down Barry Drive in Canberra City, and others hopping along the boardwalk in Tuross Head.  Once, in the wee hours of the night while sitting out under the pergola in Kaleen, I heard the quiet tippy-toe hops of a large kangaroo passing along the other side of our backyard fence, invisible behind the thick hedge of cottage roses. Wherever you find them, and no matter how often you see them, kangaroos are unique and magical. With their doe-eyes, soft fur, bounding leaps and gentle natures, they are one of the things that make Australia special.

And, apparently kangaroos seek the serenity of the beach as much as we do.

DSC02400-kangaroo-original-small

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Postscript

A few days after publishing this post, a snow storm hit Australia, and my friend Marina Lobastov shared with me this Facebook photo of kangaroos in the blizzard by Christie Panozzo. It is wildly popular for good reason; I love the way it shows the resilience of these lovely creatures.

Christie Panozzo, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, 5 August 2015

Christie Panozzo, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, 5 August 2015

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PHOTOGRAPHS:
With the exception of the kangaroos in the snow photograph, all photographs by Sabrina Caldwell; other than resizing for web use, no alterations have been done to the photographs.

The kangaroos in the snow photograph is by Christie Panozzo, Ballarat, Victoria, taken on 5 August 2015. It is not known if any alterations were made to this photograph, but it is likely to have been cropped.

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References:
Photo post at https://www.facebook.com/victorianstormchasers/photos/a.381222158555044.98537.373833145960612/971197489557505/?type=1. Accessed 5 August 2015.
 

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My photo “Fog on the Ocean” on ABC News Breakfast

The weather conditions yesterday on the ocean were amazing. As the sun rose, it hit the ocean waves in the cold winter air and fog rose in a rippling blanket across the water. As I stood shivering in the cold grass with bare feet after racing over to photograph this beautiful phenomenon, a neighbour out walking her dog suggested that Vanessa O’Hanlon, the weather lady at the ABC would be interested in such photos.  She was right!

Vanessa O'Hanlon presenting my photograph of fog on the ocean, ABC Breakfast Show 4 June 2015

Vanessa O’Hanlon presenting my photograph of fog on the ocean, ABC News Breakfast show 4 June 2015

For those of you who would like to see more, here are a couple more photos from the morning, including a V formation of seabirds who flew across the sky at just the right moment.

Flock of seabirds fly out of the sunrise on a foggy ocean day

Flock of seabirds fly out of the sunrise on a foggy ocean day

Fog on the ocean, Tuross Head

Fog on the ocean, Tuross Head

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PHOTOGRAPHS:
Fog on the ocean by Sabrina Caldwell; other than resizing for web use no alterations have been done. Flock of seabirds fly out of the sunrise on a foggy ocean day by Sabrina Caldwell, rotated and cropped, resized for web use. Vanessa O’Hanlon presenting my photograph of fog on the ocean provided by ABC Network: Giulio Saggin, Photo Editor, ABC News Online 4 June 2015.

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Anthony Brown on ‘effortful’ photography

Juvenile Swimming Anemone - Bawley Point December, 2010 Photograph by Anthony Brown
Juvenile Swimming Anemone – Bawley Point – Photograph by Anthony Brown – December 2010

I am pleased to be able to introduce my first guest photoblogger, underwater and above water photographer Anthony Brown. Anthony says about himself on his online photography site, Rowland Cain Photography, that “I am an avid scuba diver and underwater photographer, living in Canberra, Australia. My passion is to capture and show the beauty beneath the temperate waters of the New South Wales South Coast from Jervis Bay, Ulladulla, Bateman’s Bay to Montague Island. When out of the water I enjoy walking and photographing the National Parks surrounding Canberra and the New South Wales South Coast, including Kosciuszko, Namadgi and Deua National Park.

It was he that I first thought of when asked by a family member to write a post on ‘effortful photography.’ Knowing of his unceasing scuba diving and photography efforts, I felt he was well placed to respond to the question of effort in photography. I was both right and wrong, because it appears that effort, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Seacam Housing Photograph by Anthony Brown, Rowland Photography

Seacam Housing – Photograph by Anthony Brown

Anthony modestly only chronicled the effort involved in taking the photographs he wished me to publish, discounting the many years of activity and expense that brought him to those splendid moments. But as we all know, one does not catch the dawn’s first rays without getting up before the sun. And one does not take a photograph of a cuttlefish pistoning over corals with a point-and-shoot from the safety of the sand’s edge.

Anthony has been scuba diving since 1992, and has qualifications including the CDAA (Cave Divers Association of Australia) Level 3 that allows him to dive in caverns and sinkholes.

At the moment Anthony uses a Nikon D200 SLR camera with a 10.5mm fisheye lens and a Micro Nikkor 60mm lens with Nikon SB105 strobe lighting. His camera is the only thing he carries on a dive; when underwater his SLR is kept safe from the seawater with the neutrally bouyant and rather impressive looking Seacam Housing above.

I will let Anthony recount his ideas about effort in photography from here.

Anthony Brown: 

When looking at a photograph it can be very difficult to judge how much effort has gone into taking the image. Lately, I have been very interested in images taken in the Kosciuszko and Alpine National Parks in the snow. I have chatted online to a few photographers who have told me how difficult it is to camp in the snow and get up at dawn in -10 Celsius to take the images, let alone risk the hazards of the weather conditions. I was surprised when I spoke to one photographer about an image near Falls Creek; he said that he had trekked for two days though snow to get the image. He paused, then continued with, 'only joking, I was driving to Falls Creek and noticed this scene along side of the road, I simply stopped the car and took the shot.'

Here are two of my images to illustrate the point; I like each of them about the same. The first is of a baby humpback calf I had wanted to take for years. To get this image I traveled to Eua in Tonga. It was not as easy to get the image as I had anticipated. Sure, some people do get lucky and the whales do just sit in the water sometimes and pose, but generally speaking the whales simply take off as soon as the snorkel lets enter the water.

Rowland Cain Photography: Underwater &emdash;

Baby Humpback – Eua, Tonga – Photograph by Anthony Brown – September 2012

It took me a week of going out for a few hours each morning and afternoon to get about 3 images I was relatively happy with. Only once during the whole week did a calf get inquisitive enough, and its mother allow, to come only metres from me.

The Baby Humpback photograph is basically straight out of the camera; the only adjustments I made were the mandatory RAW sharpening and removal of the blue colour cast that the camera captured which was not visible to the eye when I took the shot.

Rowland Cain Photography: Australian Panoramas &emdash; Camel Rock - Bermagui

Camel Rock – Bermagui, NSW – Photograph by Anthony Brown – January 2014


The second image was taken at Camel Rock near Bermagui on the way home from my parents' place in Tuross Head. Sure I had to get up early to get there for sunrise, but I simply stepped out of the car, walked 100 metres, took the shot and walked back to the car and drove home. (However, there was follow-up work required in constructing the panorama from the various image slices.)

To illustrate my point further, I entered the Humpback Calf image, along with another four underwater images into a local competition last year. I placed second. The lady who won, a wonderful photographer,  entered images of steel grates and other images taken alongside the road near her house. They say that to take great photos you have to stand in front of something great. That really does help, but a great photographer can find great images anywhere.

-- Anthony Brown, April 2014

It has been a treat for me to work with Anthony and learn more about underwater photography, RAW photograph processing, and the subjects of his photos.  I have always found it difficult to see the eyes of whales in photographs and it wasn’t until I saw Anthony’s Baby Humpback Whale photo with its eye so clearly visible that I realised I had always been looking too far forward on the body for the eye, when in fact it was rather near to the pectoral fin. And I was taken by the otherworldly-ness of the Camel Rock photo, with its long exposure, sunrise colours and panorama format.

It seems that effortful photography can mean different things to different people. On first thought we probably equate effort with things such as being persistent enough to finally have the right opportunity, like Anthony’s week of waiting for the humpback whale calf to draw near. Or perhaps it is the journey required to be in a certain place at a certain time that gives us pause.

But effort in photography can also mean constructing the building blocks of a photographic practice, like investigating and investing in the right equipment. It might mean developing processes for managing our photographs and building websites to showcase them. It might even mean developing special abilities over time to have the capacity to be in a position to take the photograph, such as Anthony achieving his scuba diving certifications. In respect of the effort of putting these basic building blocks in place, the effort of taking a single photograph is a thin layer on top of a large foundation, like icing on a cake.  Perhaps we should all take stock of what it really takes for us to achieve those photographs of which we ourselves are particularly proud.

Thanks Anthony for sharing your photographs and your stories with us. For all of you who would no doubt like to see more, please visit Anthony’s online photography at Rowland Cain Photography.  And with that we come to the end of this delightful adventure learning about Anthony Brown and his amazing photography. I will leave you with just one more of his stunning photographs.

Eastern Cleaner Clingfish - Bawley Point - Photograph by Anthony Brown - April 2012

Eastern Cleaner Clingfish – Bawley Point – Photograph by Anthony Brown – April 2012

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All photographs by Anthony Brown. Re-sized for web use and post processed as described by Anthony below.

The Baby Humpback photograph was only adjusted with the mandatory RAW sharpening and removal of the blue colour cast that the camera captured which was not visible to the eye when I took the shot.

Juvenile Swimming Anemone and Eastern Cleaner Clingfish were only adjusted with mandatory RAW sharpening.

Camel Rock is a different story, but I believe still faithful to the original scene although the blur of the water and clouds was not visible to the eye. Adjustments made on this image: Image was taken as between 7-9 (I can check) vertical images on a slow shutter speed. The images were stitched together with Photoshop to produce a massively scalable panorama. The ocean did not stitch correctly on the left, so I fixed it by moving part of the image down aligning the water. As the very slow shutter speed meant some time before taking the next image in sequence, the clouds did not align correctly, so I had to manually brush in the joins. Mandatory RAW sharpening was then applied. Colours were boosted slightly. Overall what is in the image was what I saw, except for the blurring due to the slow shutter speed.

 

 

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Matched set – busy waterbirds

Don’t we love to watch the serenity of a duck floating on a pond or a cormorant contentedly drying itself with spread wings in the afternoon sun? But waterbirds are actually very busy creatures who must keep warm and dry in the midst of their watery world, raise families, be social, fly from place to place in search of amenable climates and food sources, keep a wary eye out for predators and compete for food.  This matched set of photos attempts to illuminate some of this hustle and bustle.

Swan family on an outing at Floriade

The first time I saw a black swan I was startled; I didn’t know they could be black.  I looked at the graceful neck of the glossy black bird and its smooth progress across a still lake in a Sydney park and knew it could be nothing other than a swan, but not as I knew them.

Australian Black Swans are native to Australia and New Zealand, and were unknown to western civilisation until 1697 when Dutch captain Willem de Vlamingh discovered them in the Western Australian river he later named Swan River. Later, in 1790 John Latham, a noted English naturalist formally described them.[1] It seems that before their discovery, a truism used in Europe was “all swans are white.” Australian Black Swans certainly played havoc with that saying.

The photograph below is of a mother (known as a ‘pen’) and her four young cygnets swimming in Canberra’s Lake Burly Griffen.  The father (the ‘cob’), while not in this photo, was nearby. I love the way the cygnets look so unaware and distracted – it says a lot about how difficult a job it must be for the parents.

Swan family on an outing at Floriade

Australian Black Swan and her cygnets on an outing on Lake Burly Griffen during Floriade

Sleeping with one eye open

Sleeping with one eye open, Ducks resting at the side of Sullivan's Creek, The Australian National University

Sleeping with one eye open, Ducks resting at the side of Sullivan’s Creek, The Australian National University

I came upon these Australian Wood Ducks resting by Sullivan’s Creek at The Australian National University. I took the photo in 1999, but it could be any day at ANU because these ducks are a well-loved feature of the landscape.

I have always liked this photo because of the contrast between the alert eye and the sleeping position of the duck on the left, as well as the guarding position of the duck on the right. While humans are seldom a threat, they are vulnerable to foxes, dogs and cats.

Clearly, even while slumbering a duck needs to be aware of its surroundings.  And it helps to have a mate.

Navigating the world of man

Navigating the world of man, Geese crossing a country road

Navigating the world of man,
geese crossing a rainy country road

Every animal in the world, geese included, evolved in the absence of roads and cars.

These Pilgrim Geese waddled across the road in front of our car with only the tiniest of acceleration after seeing us.

Fortunately they live on a very slow road by a 90 degree bend winding through a rural Australian town and are likely seldom in danger.

After meandering across to the other side, they began nibbling in the grass and ignored our presence.

A Silver Gull takes wing

I entitled this last photograph A Silver Gull takes wing because it would be easy to think the gull in the mid-ground of the photo was either flying past or landing. But if you look to its right, you can see the splashes indenting the surface of Tuross Lake where the gull pushed off on takeoff. I took this photo from a boat dock where fishermen were cleaning their catch. These Australian Pelicans and Silver Gulls knew well that tasty tidbits could be expected to be thrown to them and were making their way over. The yellow rings around the eyes of the pelicans indicate that these two individuals are non-breeding adults.

A Silver Gull takes wing Tuross Lake boat ramp, Tuross Head, NSW

A Silver Gull takes wing
Tuross Lake boat ramp, Tuross Head, NSW

Despite their often bucolic-seeming existence, waterbirds actually live very complex lives.  They are constantly vigilant against threats and on the look out for opportunities.  They need to be fit and resourceful, and need a lot of water, land and air to survive and thrive. Certainly they are deserving of our respect, admiration and conservation.

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PHOTOGRAPHS: All photographs by Sabrina Caldwell, and other than resizing for web use, no alterations have been done to the photographs.

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References
[1] Black Swan, Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Swan, Accessed 22 March 2014.
 

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