Birds

Just last week, these beautiful Lorikeets started to visit our balcony for apple. Quite wonderful to watch. Using the Fujifilm 18 – 55mm lens and moving slowly, I managed to get a number of photos I was pretty pleased with.

The 18 – 55 lens is absolutely phenomenal to use. I could not get over the detail in the birds’ eyes and their feathers.

Lorikeets again....

Spring

Spring in Victoria starts on 1/9, and as if nature knew the date, the weather seemed to change that day. The rain we have had over autumn and winter has mostly abated, the days seem warmer and the sun has been shining quite beautifully.

The Coronavirus lockdown persists and is showing effect in metro Melbourne, which includes our area despite our distance from the city. It’s not too bad for me as I go out to work still, but it is beginning to wear thin for the family. I understand that, because although I go to work, it’s not the same as being able to choose one’s recreation or daily activity. I am sure before too long things will ease as the numbers continue to fall.

This photograph was taken the other morning when I returned home from work after a night shift which included a helicopter trip to collect a regional patient and bring them through to the city. I’m a huge fan of helicopter trips, so it made for a decent shift. I sat here on the balcony with Carolin, had breakfast and a cup of tea in the warmth of the early morning and then retired to bed for a couple of hours.

Hammock on the balcony

Creativity

Apart from an almost unending ability to daydream and a fertile imagination, I don’t think many people who knew me as a youngster would have predicted the passion I have for creativity these days. Along with my photography, which I enjoy immensely, the movie making and writing, I have played guitar for decades. It is probably the most enduring of all of my hobbies. More recently, I am having a good go at learning to play rock Bass too.

In our new recreation room, downstairs, the family’s guitars hang on the wall. The amps are along the floor. I recently took a punt on a new product, via Kickstarter, called a Spark Pro. It’s a solid state, 40W amp with a tiny speaker and a lovely design. The premise of the amp is that as well as being played conventionally, one can use a partner app to emulate various pedal effects and amp tones. It actually works really well. It’s definitely a practice amp, you wouldn’t use it for a show. I stream the song I wish to accompany through it and the guitar or bass blends in really well. It’s a great product and reasonably priced.

Inspired by this amp, rediscovering my rock passion and a friend who recently purchased a Fender Telecaster, I have taken the plunge and purchased my first ever branded guitar. A new Strat is on its way to me, in white. I cannot wait to play it through the Blackstar or the Spark and work on improving my electric rhythm playing.

Meanwhile, a couple of pics of existing guitars.

Study buddy - Explored//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js Telecaster//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Fujinon 27mm Prime

I have three lenses for my X-E3, an 18mm prime, 27mm prime and 18 – 55 zoom. All three are pretty good and the 27mm and 18 – 55 are ridiculous in terms of amazing quality at reasonable prices. The 18mm is a little less impressive and I find I rarely use it nowadays.

The 27mm cost me less than $100, with a cashback offer that ran at the time I purchased it. It is very much my go to lens. As a pancake lens, it’s makes the camera very portable indeed. It even fits in some coat pockets. Much like the camera, it is more lens than I am capable of fully using at my skill level.

COVID has somewhat curtailed my photography, as I feel as though I have captured as much local material as I want to at the moment and stopping whilst going to and from work is not really in the spirit of the lockdown, even for a quick photograph. At the same time, I have mostly caught up on the archive of images from the last few years.

I do still take the camera out on dog walks and occasionally get a nice image. The 27mm is always a strong performer.

Willow Watches

Movie-making

I’ve enjoyed editing home movies since we first had a camcorder in 2001. My early editing career was hampered by not being able to afford the technology to actually import, edit and export the movies but in many ways, this delay has benefitted my work tremendously.

When Carolin & I first got married, we purchased a Panasonic Digital Camcorder which was quite decent spec, recording to MiniDV tape and equipped with a massive optical zoom. The only downside with it was that whilst one could connect it, using firewire, to a computer, it was not possible to export the finished edit back to DV tape. This was purely due to buying the camera in the European Union. My sister purchased a similar camcorder whilst visiting us in Australia a year later, and that model could receive an input signal.

I purchased an iMac in 2002 with an early version of iMovie, but home computers of the time were not up to the processing and storage challenges of managing the massive files involved in digital video. The whole process was intensely laborious, required a huge amount of patience and then the arrival of my sister to visit so that I could export the finished product back to MiniDV, then play it through a VCR in order to watch it again. Of course, putting it on to a video cassette adversely impacted the quality. Whilst at medical school, a colleague who had a background in digital media would lend me her Powerbook Mac laptop with a DVD writer and I could finally burn some movies to DVD, but ultimately it was a very stop/start process until I finally got hold of an iMac with a DVD Writer, an external hard drive and some decent processing power.

About the time that I did obtain sufficient machinery to set about our by now huge MiniDV archive, internet connectivity was getting to the point that made uploading and consuming video sufficiently easy that DVDs were on their way out, almost as quickly as they arrived. At the same time, the camcorder was coming to the end of its useful life both in terms of recording quality and being eclipsed by HD and later 4K video. I can still remember the first time I saw HD in a TV store. I could not imagine anything surpassing it. Then I saw 4K. Fast-forward 20 years from buying that camcorder and most of us now carry 4K capable moving picture cameras in our pockets, home camcorders are never seen and even amateurs who want to film with something other than a phone may well be using a DSLR to do so. (Disclaimer: I have not once activated, or used, the movie function on my XE-3). I have made a couple of short films on my iPhone. The thing that I certainly never saw coming was the 4K capable drone, such as our Mavic Platinum Pro, which blows my mind with its quality and ease of use. Sequences that would have required a helicopter in my youth, even perhaps ten years ago, are now achievable with a sub-$2000 drone!

All in all, I suspect that film-making is one area of my hobbies that has been ably served, in terms of time, by me procrastinating for twenty years or so. The combination of the Panasonic recording quality, lens and the MiniDV format and modern editing and upscaling means that many of our home videos from the children’s early years are quite phenomenal viewing in terms of detail and imaging quality. Had I pushed ahead with transferring them to VHS or even DVD back in the early 2000s, I may have come out with more substandard material than I have now.

The next big jump that has impressed me is the ability of modern Smart TVs to upscale, such that my SD home movies as uploaded to Vimeo are displayed on our 55″ Bravia in amazing quality and do not look like expanded SD. Once again, the work of trying to use software to upscale on the computer is taken away.

A further happy development has been the explosion of film-making on Vimeo and YouTube, which has moved amateurs like me on from funky transitions, crappy titles and dodgy effects, to creating quality pieces that are well edited and not far off of broadcast quality. (I must admit I have a couple of videos that need to be taken back to the drawing room to remove some gimmicky effects). I must also offer particular thank to a chap called Colin Barrett and a number of contributors to a highly successful bulletin board he ran in the early to mid-2000s, called “SimplyDV”. Colin is an immensely successful cinematographer and video producer who has written in print and online about filming and curated an excellent forum that offered numerous tips to enthusiastic beginners and more experienced operators. To this date, I still have not found a board of any sort that is as friendly and informative as that was. As far as I know, Colin is still active with his business, transferring and archiving video for private and commercial customers: http://simplydv.biz

I have set about trying to catch up with our massive archive recently. Reviewing footage remains a time-consuming process, as each MiniDV tape was 60mins (thank goodness I did not switch the LP setting on). The home videos are relatively easy after that, just trim a few clips, cut out some bloopers and create the finished movie. After all, they are for our consumption only. More recently, the stuff we are filming on the drone and phones does require a bit more consideration and I am hoping to actually complete some dedicated film projects.

One of my first, quick, projects the other day was to edit some footage Joshua had taken over the summer at a local hang-out, using the Mavic… He got some impressive stuff, although he could do with keeping things a little more in frame 😉

Enjoy….

Black and White

I shot my first ever roll of black and white film in 2018, using the Minolta camera I had purchased. I love black and white images, although I do recognise the observation made by many that we see our world in colour, so why strip that way in a photograph?

I think my fondness for BW stems from studying some of the greatest photos in history, which are very often in black and white. Removing the colour allows one to get the detail of the shot.

At the same time, I find black and white digital can be jarring and almost too vivid. With my XE-3, I find I can creates reasonably pleasing BW images, using the Acros film emulation and adding some subtle grain, but digital never looks as pleasing as film to my eye.

Until recently, that roll of film was the only one I had exposed. As of today, I have two more completed films read and will try to develop at least one of them at home. Another first for me.

This image, from my first roll, is far from technically perfect. The pole in the background is testament to may lazy composition and the focus at a large aperture is just slightly off. But, I love it. I love Carolin’s expression, the hat and the scarf. In my defence, where composition is concerned, I have to be quick with getting the image, before she becomes self-conscious and there is no question of ‘staging’ the image.

 Carolin, Waratah Bay, 2018

Lake Mapourika

For two weeks last September, we travelled through the South Island of New Zealand in a camper van. It was a superb family holiday, in a wonderful part of the world.

Carolin and I had visited NZ many years ago and it remains a mystery to us why it took so long for us to get back there. I had forgotten many things in the intervening years, including how vast the distances between large towns are and how sparsely populated the South Island is. Compared to living in Australia, NZ has a sense of home about it, in terms of the cooler, wetter climate and vegetation.

We spent some of our nights in Department of Conservation campsites, which were basic in terms of facilities, but usually stunning in terms of scenery. One of my favourites was on the shores of Lake Mapourika, near Franz-Josef Glacier.

Lake Mapourika

Commitment

I cannot really explain why this blog has not become a more regular fixture. It is tempting to blame it on being time poor, being preoccupied with other tasks or things of that nature. In reality, I cannot really blame those factors. I have quite a bit of down time, during which I could compose a post, and I have more than enough images I could share.

The truth of it is, perhaps, that in aiming for quality posts I do not actually sit down and write any posts. The process of selecting an image and composing a post seems to take too long, compared to putting it on Flickr with an abbreviated comment.

Perhaps, automatically posting each Flickr choice here, with the comment reproduced, might help me to form the habit. I will try that, whilst also dipping into the seven months of Flickr Posts that I have not transferred to here.

 

Contentment and Achievement

This is far from my finest photograph and I am not really a fan of ‘selfies’, but this photo means a huge amount. I took it on Saturday when I played a small part in a charity stair climb featuring 600 firefighters, 25kgs of kit each and 28 floors at the Crown Hotel in Melbourne.

The aim was to raise funds for support programs dealing with mental health issues in the emergency services and to raise awareness of the importance of dealing with such issues and supporting each other.

Having been an extended member of the firefighting family all my life, through my grandfather, father and uncles, and more recently an active firefighter myself, I was delighted to take part in this event and show that we are serious about supporting colleagues who may be struggling, as well as hoping for support and understanding should we ever require it.

I managed to complete the climb in 6 min 27 seconds, which was pretty reasonable for a first go and an above average time. Not bad for an old bloke who up until a month ago dodged the stairs whenever possible.

I was also proud to raise $3365 towards the cause thanks to the generosity of family, friends and colleagues.

Please, whatever job you do, look out for your colleagues and be the support and the friend to those who are experiencing hard times.

Firefighter Stair Climb

The Black Dog Institute

Lifeline

Emergency Services Foundation

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Winter

It’s well and truly winter here in Victoria. Whilst the days can reach pleasant double figure temperatures and be sunny, the nights are certainly cooler and there was frost on my car this morning down here in Gippsland where I am working for the weekend.

I have a backlog of photographs to work through, many taken during Mum’s recent visit from the UK. We had a wonderful time together and whilst I took quite a few images, I did not take the time to go through them while she was here. That will come over the next week or so perhaps.

Just before she arrived, I had the first roll of film from the Nikon FE developed. I was overly optimistic using Provia slide film as my test roll and underexposed pretty much every image. The next trick will be to see whether tending towards over-exposure improves things, or the use of a different film in it leads to different results. In the first instant I’ll go for a usual negative film and aim a little more over and see how we go.

20/04/2020: Post-edit: I have a habit of pruning out my Flickr collection from time to time, as my tastes change. I deleted one of the two images here (and some that featured in other posts). Given that I host the photos on this page, on Flickr, it adversely impacts each post. A signal to change my work flow.

First film with the Nikon FE