Category Archives: Canon 5D MarkIII

Snowy River, Balley Hooley Campground near Buchan, Victoria

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“Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze”

The Man From Snowy River – Banjo Patterson

Banjo Patterson’s poem has contributed to the iconic status of the Snowy River. The Snowy Mountains Hydro electric scheme and ideas around nation building added to it but recent debate the lack of water flowing into the river has tempered this.  My visit to it was loaded with these ideas and concerns.

A summer trip by 4WD to Tasmania via the Snowy Mountains provides a load of opportunities to camp beside the Snowy. Far too briefly, a friend and I drove from Jindabyne to Buchan along the Snowy River, it is an incredible trip. There was plenty of snow melt and there seemed to be adequate water in the river. The Snowy flows mostly through National Parks, so it is many ways an intact and evocative reminder of the country that Patterson described.

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Balley Hooley campground where these images are taken, isn’t great as far as campgrounds go but the river and scenery there are exceptional.

SnowyRiverMist-0859This was February 2014 and there were bushfires around, the weather was hot and the river itself seemed warm. These conditions contributed to produce a mist that we awoke to which you can see in the video below.

More information

Good tourist information on the Snowy River and things to see can be found at http://www.gippslandinpicture.com/locations/snowy_river_np/home.html
 

 

 

Female Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis)

FemaleGoldenWhistler-9910 I live in suburban Sydney close to the CBD and it’s usual that with monotonous regularity, aggressive birds dominate. Despite my proximity to bushland, it seems few species of birds are around. So, any change to this scene, such as a new visitor the Golden Whistler, I greet with joy.

I updated my Canon 5d Mark III this week with the new firmware which allows me to get an auto focus (AF) function with my 300mm and 2X extender along with clean HDMI out. I produce video.  The video capability is why I bought this camera and I am pleased with the clean HDMI, it is just that the stills capability has me more excited.

FemaleGoldenWhistler-9799This Golden Whistler has been around the patch of degraded urban bush below my house for a while. She seems to be a daily visitor, feeding on insects amongst a patch/thicket of Pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum), Small Leaf Privet (Ligustrum sinense), Broad-leaf privet (Ligustrum lucidum) and Cheese tree (Glochidion ferdinandi) that has an understory of Fish-bone fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia).

I saw a flock of Grey Fantails there during the week and my neighbour says that small birds are more common since the death of his neighbour’s cat. One thing for sure is the importance that this degraded bushland represents as habitat for bird species that need a refuge from the more common, dominant and aggressive birds.

It was dark this morning and the (AF) function wasn’t really able to cope with the complexity of the scene and the low light. It is a joy to get the functionality of audio feedback for focus with the lens but I was disappointed with the technology. I am no expert, I am still learning how to use the 5D and perhaps it is the operator’s expectations rather than the firmware/camera.

Nonetheless, I got a few pictures I am pleased with of a bird that I haven’t been familiar with. The female Golden Whistler is a fairly plain bird particularly when compared to it’s male counterpart which I am yet to see. The sexual dimorphism that birds often exhibit is incredible. The sexual competition that makes males exhibit their fitness so wonderfully is one of the joys of life. I can’t wait to see and photograph the male, there has to be one around.

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Photographing birds – White-cheeked Honeyeater

White-Cheeked Honeyeater on perchPhotography is so pervasive on the internet and it is of such high quality, that having your own photographs judged by others can be daunting. Bird photography is no exception, though with these posts I can take photographs that may fall short of the standard because I can reflect on and learn about the subject I am photographing. Then by creating some kind of cohesive thread of pictures and words, the individual components will be hopefully judged by their contribution to the whole.

The White-cheeked Honeyeater (Phylidonyris niger) has a peculiarly disjunct distribution. It inhabits much of the east coast of Australia but also south-western Australia and not between. It is often found in moist heathlands. This particular heath is at Wreck Beach, Tomaree National Park, Shoal Bay and it is where I have photographed the bed  a few times over the past few days.

Wreck Beach with a dramatic skyThe White-cheeked Honeyeater is flighty and erratic. It nests in dense shrubs and is often heard and while remaining hidden. Photographing it poses challenges. However, it uses perches and isn’t completely timid, so you can get lucky and without too much difficulty get a picture.

One of the challenges is using a Canon 5D Mark III. The Canon 300mm doesn’t get close enough for most birds on the 5D, so I have 2x extender. This arrangement doesn’t seem to be able to focus with the usual alert that sounds when your subject is in focus. I understand this is being rectified in the next firmware upgrade. I have to admit, after one year of ownership, I am still coming to terms with the camera and all its controls. I use it completely manually and I use a spot focus, so I am not the quickest with it. Sometimes, by the time I have the shot ready, the bird has flown away. I don’t always take a tripod. When I don’t, the sharpness at an effective focal length of 600mm, isn’t perfect. I have come to realise that taking a photograph of a bird is a very deliberate act. Bird photographers have to obsessive and single-minded.

But, the efforts have a pay off. I didn’t know this species before. In fact, I know little about most things and very little about birds. I thought it was a New Holland Honeyeater with which it sometimes shares habitat and whose distribution overlaps. I have seen it competing with Eastern Spinebills (Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris) on the fringes of this habitat and I have seen Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) there also. It feeds on nectar eater and insects which it flies swiftly and acrobatically to capture. On the woodlands that fringe its heathland, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, much more difficult to photograph, visit in large numbers. Little Wattlebirds (Anthochaera chrysoptera) are permanent neighbours.

White-Cheeked honeyeater begins flightIn the past few days, I have produced a picture (above) that I felt was not just a good picture, but a good bird photograph  I have joined a serious bird photography forum, Feathers and Photos and posted it. They like to encourage and critique. Members are interested, you get lots of views by people wo are excellent bird photographers. One comment was ‘Fantastic pose! would be great without the OOF [out of focus] foliage’. Now, I am actually not against out of focus foliage, but I can understand that for some this might be a distraction.

However, I have learnt from this exercise and their comments. In future, I need to concentrate enough photographic efforts on particular birds to get a result that is worthy of their comment and to be able to post.

Resources

I have posted previously on the plants of this part of Shoal Bay

A site which is invaluable for photographs and names of plants of Shoal Bay, Nelsons Bay and Tomaree National Park is, Philip Diemar’s, Nelson Bay Native Plants

Birds in Backyards – http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Phylidonyris-niger

For distribution of White-cheeked honeyeaters and other species, these two sites are particularly useful.

Atlas of Living Australia – http://www.ala.org.au/

Eremaea Birds – http://www.eremaea.com/

This is a link to distribution of White-Cheeked Honeyeaters at Eremaea Birds.

Jan Wegener is a typically dedicated and exceptional bird photographer on the Feathers and Photos website. His tips and tricks, provide valuable information about the post photographic process and the extent to which people go to deliver unbelievably good photographs.