Saturday, 25 March 2017

Subtleties of light

As an astro-photographer, one is used to digging deep for the light needed for a good image of a very faint scene and working around the limits involved. Exposure time is limited by focal length to avoid "trailing" stars, we lose a couple of f-stops to avoid chroma effects (costing more light) and higher ISO means more noise. Still, it's not hard to get some nice results, as this image of the Milky Way and the shape the Australian Aborigines call The Emu, shows.
EOS 5D MKIV, 17-40mm lens at f/4, ISO 8000, 25 seconds
Sunrises here sometimes provide great subjects although it is hard to capture all the detail despite using HDR-type bracketed exposures. It doesn't help that the light show is often half over before you notice it and get shooting under time pressure.
Lake Glenmaggie dawn
A recent trip to Lakes Entrance had me up and about before dawn trying for the iconic shot. Alas, a big gap between expectations and result, although I was happy enough with the end result of this image of a local dredge. Took about 30 shots to get it as I wanted and, of course, the light is ever-changing at this time of day.
EOS60D, 16-300mm at 26mm, f/14, ISO 100, 1/50 sec
Trying to capture birds in dense bush also has its challenges, as these shots taken during a recent trip to the Tarra Bulga NP show. I usually shoot at 1/1000th second to counter any movement, a wide-open lens for shallow depth of field and auto ISO to get the needed light. However, the dense bush and tree ferns at Tarra Bulga reduce the available light so one has to experiment a bit and hope the birds stay around. Luckily, these two did but you can see the strain in the photos.
Olive Whistler (Pachycephala olivacea olivacea)
EOS 5D MKIV, 150-500mm at 500mm, f/6.3, ISO 500, 1/200th with +1.7Ev
Rufous Fantail (Rhipdura rufifrons rufifrons)
EOS 5D MKIV, 150-500mm at 500mm, f/6.3, ISO 500, 1/200th with +1.7Ev
Of course, every now and then, everything is right to get a shot like this (it helps that they be bribed with some seed):
Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichglossus moluccanus moluccanus)
EOS60D, 16-300mm at 300m, f/8,1/400th second, ISO 500

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Along The Shores

I found a few nautical themed photos as I've been wading through an enormous backlog of images and coming to grips with LightRoom.
On our way to Lakes Entrance last week for a Heyfield Birdwatcher's boat outing, we checked out a local White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) haunt. There was nothing near the nest but we did see a pair nearby, resting together.
Lots of cormorants along the Gippsland Lakes; this Great Cormorant (Phalocrocorax carbo) shows a hint of the breeding white colouring around the neck.
Mixed in among the many dozens of Great Cormorants were a few Black-faced Cormorants (Phalocrocorax fuscescens).
The lakes were full of these large (40cm) jellyfish, possibly a Jelly Blubber. I'm told it is an annual occurrence here and that the large tentacles carry or are the next off-spring.

A visit last Spring to a beach near Warrnambool in Western Victoria brought our first sighting of some Hooded Plovers (Thinornis rubricollis) with some chicks. As we got closer they took to flight along with some Ruddy Turnstones (Arenaria interpres). This lucky "spray and pray" shot picked up a Hoodie escorted by two Ruddy Turnstones.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

French Island

We spent a recent weekend on French Island in Westernport Bay (Google map link) with our daughter and partner at their bush retreat, dragging along Gouldiae to serve as "orchidmeister" (see his separate report).

It was very pleasant lying in bed watching New Holland Honeyeaters (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae novaehollandiae) bathing just outside our window and listening to the "chling chling" of Grey Currawongs (Strepera versicolor versicolor) - not a man-made sound to be heard.
Walking along a track through the property's dense coastal bush, I nearly trod on a pair of mating Eastern Blue-tonged Lizards (Tiliqua scincoides scincoides). Writhing quickly in a tight circle as the male attempted to grab the female by the neck (and as she attempted to avoid this), my first impression was of a snake attempting to strangle prey. There were fairly engrossed in their battle so I was able to get close for some photos. After a few minutes, they broke off battle for a nil-all draw.
Exploring for orchids with Gouldiae one day, I spotted what I later tentatively identified as a Yellow Admiral butterfly (Vanessa itea) feasting on a Little Grasstree flower, followed soon after by a pair of Cape Barren Geese (Cereopsis novaehollandiae) by a nearby dam.
A wonderful place that I'm sure we'll see more of when our grand-daughter arrives next year.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Spring Delights

Spring is well and truly here with birds active everywhere, building nests and feeding. A few recent sightings here....
The Heyfield Wetlands added a new lagoon which promptly filled up with Spring rains. The bare mudflats provided a great location for a pair of Black-fronted Dotterels. Getting close enough for a decent shot, even with a 500m lens, called for some commando crawling but getting wet was a small price to pay for this shot.
This Restless Flycatcher has been visiting for the last 2-3 Springs but we've yet to find this year's nest.
Jacky Winters are regulars here but hard to get close to. This one seemed to be just resting in the Sun.
Spotted Pardalotes return to build their nests in tiny tree hollows or even tunnels in dirt banks or the side of wombat holes.

Mother Nature is busy all over with Spring growth bringing freshness and energy to all parts of the landscape.
Daffodil Farm at Ellinbank
Daffodil farm at Ellinbank.
The line of trees caught my eye in an otherwise monocultural farmland near The Knob Reserve at Stratford.
A cloudy Spring has limited my astronomy but I caught this nightscape of an old boiler and the Milky Way on Heyfield Station looking towards the lights of Sale

Toorongo Falls

Marg and I recently discovered this wonderful little gem just East of Noojee, Victoria (Google map). This is mostly wet forest with lots of Mountain Grey Gum, Mountain Ash, Manna Gum and Blackwoods.Two beautiful walks take you up to the falls and then along the side of a ridge above the pristine Toorongo River rushing down over a steep, rocky, gully.

Apart from the scenery and tranquility of the walk, the highlight was seeing not one but three Superb Lyrebirds at different points of the track! As well, they stayed within a few metres of us, scratching around in the thick undergrowth for several minutes before drifting away. Previous sightings elsewhere have usually been fleeting glimpses of a running bird or a raised tail a long way off.

Getting a decent photo was hard due to the poor light, and the difficulty of getting focus on a moving target in thick vegetation. Resorting to flash helped and didn't seem to bother the birds.

This DEPI brochure has more information or Google Toorongo Falls Reserve.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

More birds, bugs and stars

Good rains over December and January has resulted in long grass which brought out the bugs and those who prey on them. A recent sighting was this pair of Imperial Hairstreak butterflies (Jalmenus evagoras) in a small blackwood bush plus several pupae groups. Very hard to photograph up close on a windy day!

I'd recently spotted a few foxes out in the grasslands chasing things all over the place. I finally realised that they are catching and eating grasshoppers of which there are quite a few and of a decent size. This young one finally realized someone was watching him when my shutter went off from within 20 metres.
I've finally discovered where our resident goanna lives; here he is sunning himself on his balcony above a big hole 7 metres up a nearby Forest Red Gum. Marg was less than impressed a couple of weeks ago when he tried to get into the house via the cat-flap door!
Not a local but I recently got this nice shot of a Grey-crowned Babbler (Pomotostomus temporalis) foraging for food under a pine tree at the Tocumwal Golf course.
Finally, some astronomy. I had been trying to perfect time-lapse sequences that would run from sunset through the dark and into sunrise, with full details of both daylight scenery and full dark starry glory. Not easy as one jumps between auto camera mode then transitioning to a script driving BackYard EOS to vary the exposures beyond what camera auto mode will do then moving back to the intervalometer with full dark settings, only to reverse the sequence the next morning. Not to mention managing battery life!
Anyway, I got up at 4.30am to start the second BYE script and discovered the laptop had frozen. A quick view outside showed me a lovely sight of Venus and the new Moon so I quickly set things up for this shot and got a lovely shot of the Milky Way and a hint of the Zodiacal Light, together with my observatory dome in the foreground.
Canon EOS60D plus 18mm lens: 25 seconds at f/4.5 and ISO 3200.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

An eclectic mob

It has been a bit too cloudy for much in the way of astronomy lately and I've been too busy for much flying (although I did spot a Blue Whale and calf a mile or two offshore on the Ninety Mile Beach - alas, no camera on-board).

In the meantime, a somewhat eclectic group of recent bird sightings.

A pair of Channel-billed Cuckoos (Scythrops noveaehollandiae) have been regular visitors in Spring over the last few years and they stay as long as the mulberry tree has fruit. They get hounded from pillar to post by every other bird and are generally hide well inside a tree. So, I was pleased to get this long-distance shot recently.
PW recently took us to a new wetlands in Drouin (map here) where a family of Hoary-headed Grebes (Poliocephalus poliocephalus) were busy feeding in the shallow water.
Although not nesting in this tree on the Lower Newry Road where an old nest sits, this White-bellied Sea-eagle (Haliaeetus leacoaster) was taking a keen interest in some Pacific Black Duck, Chestnut Teal and Grey Teal families in the pond below.
Royal Spoonbills (Platalea regia) are fairly common on the Cemetery Road wetlands in Sale but not commonly close enough to get a decent shot. This one was too busy feeding close to the road to worry about me stopping for a few shots.
The flowering native plants in our garden attract both Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets which makes it easier to get closer shots of these fast-moving and fast-feeding birds. This Musk Lorikeet (Glossopsitta concinna) is enjoying one of our Silver Princess flowering gums.
We spotted this mob of 18-20 Emus (Dromaius novahollandiae) about 200m away in a paddock along Beaver Meadows Track recently. When we turned away to look at some birds on the other side of the track, their curiosity got the better of them and they came up for a closer look (see next photo).