Brad Douglas Photography: Blog http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog en-us (C) Brad Douglas Photography braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) Sun, 12 Feb 2017 11:15:00 GMT Sun, 12 Feb 2017 11:15:00 GMT http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/img/s/v-5/u100832069-o162051475-50.jpg Brad Douglas Photography: Blog http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog 120 80 News http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2017/2/news-2017-02-12 Just a quick update on what's going on at the moment.

 

During February you can see a set of my photos on display at the wonderful “Gallery Tasmania” at Sheffield Tasmania.  They gallery shares premises with Fudge ‘n’ Good Coffee (Warning: their hot chocolate is addictive).  It’s a really nice venue and a great place to chill out.

 

Next month (March) I will be showing another display photos titled “Damsels and Dragons” at the Sheffield Working Art Space (SWAS).  This gallery exhibits work from some amazing local artists, and typically has an artist working on site.  I volunteer at this gallery, so I’ll update this post with dates I’ll be there once I know the roster.

 

Finally, while the rest of the country is melting in a summer heat wave, here in Tasmania the mercury is dropping.  I’ve noticed that some of the species I chase are losing their summer “breeding” colours as average temperatures are already falling.  Winter is coming, and this far south nature gets ready early.

 

Here is a Superb Wren in hos breeding colours... they're turning a dull brown now.

 

Malurus cyaneusMalurus cyaneusMalurus cyaneus (Superb Fairy-wren)

IUCN Status: Least Concern

The first run with my camera in Tassie this year turned out to be productive. I've wanted better photos of this species. Had to delete a lot of duds after I shot this lot. Happy days.

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2017/2/news-2017-02-12 Sun, 12 Feb 2017 11:15:25 GMT
Influence http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2016/10/influence One of the great things about being in nature rather than environments of our design is that it can remind us of raw truths regarding our existence.  For example, something about my recent time photographing bowerbirds challenged how I think about who I am. 

Ptilonorhynchus violaceusPtilonorhynchus violaceusPtilonorhynchus violaceus (Satin Bower Bird)

ICUN Status: Least Concern

PS: As an aside, I did also find an interesting paper researching how bowerbird brain size scales up proportional to bower complexity.

Once bowerbirds reach maturity something drives males to find a spot and build their namesake bower.  The bower changes substantially from species to species, yet within a species they are very consistent, even over a very large distribution/range.  The structural and behaviour complexity of bower building raises many questions:

  • How did this behaviour arise?
  • What is it about a bower that makes it more or less acceptable to a female?
  • This seems like a textbook example of tool making and altering their environment.   How does that challenge our model of intelligence?

 

While these are interesting, it is the question of how they know the form of and process to build these bowers that I think is really fascinating.  Is bower building a learnt behaviour or something innate passed from one generation to the next?  The short answer is that it appears to be both.  The long answer is much more interesting.

 

You can find many articles discussing why they build.  How they know what to build is less understood (aspiring PHD students take note).   The closest I’ve found to an answer is this interview with Dr. Gerald Borgia from the University of Maryland, in the USA.  From what I’ve been able to ascertain, if a bowerbird is raised in isolation it will still build a bower.  However they will not be as detailed or complete.   The nuances of a perfected bower are not present until novices have seen the bowers of more experienced builders and actively practice.

 

At least on some level, this bower building appears to be an intrinsic behaviour that is passed genetically from parent to offspring.  This is complex behaviour that includes details on design that is uniform across nearly all individuals over a massive range.  The word “instinct’ conjures up images of animals responding in some emotive, automated manner to some external stimuli: fleeing from a predator etc.  We would not normally consider deliberate, methodical behaviour over an extended period, leading to complex construction, as instinct.  Passing layout and construction plans from one generation to the next requires something more than vague stimulus-response programming.  It requires specific, detailed information be carried across reproductive lines.

 

There are other examples of this happening in nature.  Take, for example, this article which discusses how bird song appears to be encoded in genetics.  The idea that behaviour like song, which remains stable over many generations, is encoded in DNA is not too hard accept.  A “program” carried in the genes of the species from one generation to the next without the need for teaching seems reasonable.

 

It doesn’t stop there.

 

A study from 2013 exposed mice to a specific odour in situations designed to induce fear.  Incredibly, offspring of those original mice also associated the odour with fear.  It appears that somehow specific information regarding the threat of that odour was transferred genetically from parent to offspring in a single generation.  The theory is that it is not stored in the DNA, but something external: the epigenome (more on that another time).  Regardless of how, surely the notion that experiences of parents appear to be passed genetically to their offspring should give us pause.  Surely it raises serious questions about what makes us, us?

 

There is also strong evidence that pre-birth dietary influences affect a myriad of later life conditions such as allergies, obesity and diabetes.

 

I reflect on my parents and my grandparents and think about the incredibly hard, sometimes traumatic things they went through.  Some were huge global problems such as the Great Depression and WW2.  Some were intensely personal issues.  It doesn’t surprise me that events, both joyous and crushing, impact on lives and change people.  However the idea that change can include a genetic aspect and those of subsequent generations is less intuitive.

 

We live in a society that lauds individuality and has lofty ideals that if you work hard success will follow.  Taking pride in accomplishment is only fair and right.  However that pride should be infused with a large dose of humility.  There is a myriad of elements that mould us to be the people we are, and if we’re honest, surely we must admit that we are passive and unable to alter most of them.  We have utterly no influence on the country we’re born into and its economic and political position.  We have utterly no influence over the families we’re born into, the stability and safety of the home, the value placed on education, and the example set by our parents of how to live.  Life being a level playing field or quote marks is a fundamentally flawed notion.

 

Every person you hold dear, have just met, or see on television, no matter how lofty or low their circumstances, is a cloud of influences, most of which they hold no control over, pulling them in certain directions and down certain paths.  Consider that, PTSD and other crippling acquired mental health issues potentially passing genetically over generational boundaries should invoke empathy and compassion.

 

Our society functions on the notion that your successes and failures are you own.  It is important and necessary that individuals be held accountable for the outcome of their actions.  This principle is necessary and right for the greater good.  Yet it does ignore that for each individual, there’s much more to them than just them.

 

I acknowledge that I’ve been ridiculously lucky to be born into my family in this country.  It is an incredible blessing.  Now I’m challenged to show grace, and be a blessing to others. 

 

The decisions we make now have lasting consequences in both incredibly small (genetic) and large (environmental) scales.

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) Epigenome bowerbirds genetic memory http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2016/10/influence Fri, 21 Oct 2016 10:52:51 GMT
Comparisons Between Y2K and Climate Change http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2016/8/y2k-climate-change Making an informed decision on where you stand on climate change is daunting.  There’s a mountain of technically complex evidence to be understood, and a chorus of voices all presenting nuanced arguments across a wide spectrum of positions from “immanent human extinction” through to “carbon dioxide is just fertilizer”.  By the time you add our various biases, “truth” seems like a wishful ideal.  However, we are (hopefully) reasoning beings, capable of testing out thoughts and adjusting our thinking.

 

Intermittently, amongst the circus of ideas, an argument in favor of inaction regarding climate change pops up  that I can actually respond to in a meaningful way.  This is because it comes from a problem space that I’ve spent my whole life in: software.  The argument goes like this:  The last large, complex, global crisis that threatened to undo civilization was Y2K, yet for all the panic and immense expense, nothing of significance went wrong.  The implication is that climate change is a similarly complex issue, so we shouldn’t rush to expensive mitigation action.

 

Before showing why that’s not a reasonable position, let me provide a little background as to why I can comment on it.  I’ve been writing code since primary school (1982).  I was lucky enough to have parents with enough foresight and generosity to gift us a RadioShack TRS80 for Christmas.  I spent hours teaching myself BASIC from books and magazines.  As the computers and programming languages changed through the years, the thing that so captivated me did not.  I graduated from QUT with an IT degree in 1996.  I still enjoy it today in my role as tech lead in a software development company doing enterprise systems.  So in summary, I was working on mainframe and mini based software systems right through that Y2K period.

 

If you are old enough, you can probably remember the somewhat hysterical reporting of the threat that computer systems around the globe would crash or go berserk at midnight on New Year’s Eve 1999.  Planes were going  to fall out of the sky, defense systems run amok, and banking details lost forever in an anarchy unleashed by hidden bugs, impossible to protect against.  It made for a compelling narrative:  an invisible, pervasive threat to the listener’s personal interests…  And that is where the actual similarity to climate change ends.

 

Some background information is warranted.  Originally computers didn’t have nice graphical displays with true type fonts.  Instead they had text displays which behaved more like a typewriter than the modern 4k graphical wonders we take for granted now.  Text displays could show a single page of characters and a small page at that: 80 characters on a line by 25 lines.  You can still see text screens underlying modern graphical displays in BIOS screens, or Windows’ notorious ‘Blue Screen of Death’ and are also still used in small devices where graphics capability is an unnecessarily overhead.

 

When doing screen design for text-only forms, two things are critically important: 1) making the most of every one of the 2000 characters available on the page; 2) keeping the number of keystrokes required to enter data into said forms to an absolute minimum.  So, it was only natural that instead of entering 31/12/1975, the system would be written as 31/12/75 (or even just 311275).

 

In the mid-1990s computers systems, particularly large business and government systems were still largely text based (often a text terminal emulator running on a PC).  Often (even if the system had a graphical user interface), under the covers, it was built on top of legacy business functions that assumed two-digit years.  As the year 2000 drew closer, the concern about how old systems would cope when they were asked to process 01/01/01 was real and legitimate.  You wouldn’t want the government saying little Susie was 100 years old when she took her first breath, or the stock exchange thinking the order you just urgently issued was received and dealt with 100 years ago.  The risk to real time systems (think aircraft, military, factories etc.) where timing is utterly critical, and often safety an immediate concern was also… real.

 

So, while Y2K was a big, complex, multi-faceted problem, with real consequences, that ‘meta’ similarity is where reasonable comparisons with climate change end.  Fundamentally the problems differ greatly in lots of ways, but two in particular merit:

  1. Within any given system, the extent of its Y2K problem was completely and easily knowable in advance.  All it took to know how your system was going to cope with Y2K was to create a duplicate of the software, set the clock to 23:59 31 Dec 1999, and watch how it behaved when the year ticked over.
  2. Business and government both expended money, time and effort on testing for and remedying Y2K issues.

 

The next time someone implies Y2K was no big deal and business wasted piles of money on it, you’ll know that’s a falsehood.  01-01-2001 was no big deal because leaders and domain experts worked methodically and effectively to secure an incredibly successful outcome.  Saying “the lack of a disaster indicates the effort was unnecessary”, or worse, that it was a money making ‘conspiracy’”, is like saying “installing and maintaining fire alarms is a wasteful ploy of their manufacturer” or that “the bomb squad should be disbanded because we haven’t had an explosion”.  It’s neither clever nor truthful.

 

Climate change is not like Y2K.  It’s nothing like Y2K.  It’s more pervasive; in that the cause and effects of the problem are everywhere we are, all the time.  It’s more intractable; in that it’s harder to solve since there’s no trivial way to isolate it, try and retry remedies.  It’s more severe; in that the potential damage to our civilisation and ecosystem is far greater.

Powerful Owl (Wise)Be Wise!<a href="http://bie.ala.org.au/species/urn:lsid:biodiversity.org.au:afd.taxon:c303a58c-ffb9-4bf6-a71b-5e22299c5ee2" target="_blank">Ninox strenua (Powerful Owl)</a><br/> <br/><a href="http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22689389/0" target="_blank">IUC Status: Least Concern</a><br/> <br/>These are Australia&rsquo;s largest owl species. They are very impressive, and can take down quite large prey such as possums. In fact there are some great photos on the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powerful_owl" target="_blank">Wikipedia page</a> showing how they often roost with their prey in the talons, and devour it through the day.<br/> <br/>The IUCN status for this species actually has the threat level to the species being less than that of the various Australian governments. That&rsquo;s the first time I&rsquo;ve seen that! It&rsquo;s listed as &ldquo;vulnerable&rdquo; in all the states that its range extends into, except Victoria. It&rsquo;s found along the eastern coast, from central QLD right down to the southern VIC coast, and west to the ranges. Its range is dictated by habitat, preferring humid forests.<br/> <br/>This was one of a pair at Mt Cootha, near Brisbane. They bred during the winter, and had fledglings that were already large, and had left the nest. Unbelievably, they nested right near a popular walking area. This was my second trip to photograph them, and it happened to be the Ekka holiday. People in the forest that day were like hairs on a cats back. It was hard to believe that these four birds were putting up with it, but they seemed largely oblivious to the humans, and showed far more concern when other birds (Sulfur crested cockatoos in particular) were active overhead.

 

Anyone who suggests climate change and Y2K are at all equivalent is either ignorant or deceptive.  Be wise! (shameless segway to Powerful Owl photo).

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) Climate change Computer Systems IT Y2K http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2016/8/y2k-climate-change Sat, 27 Aug 2016 12:37:50 GMT
Science is a vixen http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2016/5/science-is-a-vixen For the first few years I was in Tassie, the fox problem was a huge deal... a $50M seriously huge deal.  However I've not heard anything about it in the last couple of years.  So when looking up the IUCN status for bettong reminded me of the threat, I decided to look into where things stood.  I wasn't expecting such an intriguing story.

Bettongia gaimardi cuniculus (Tasmanian Bettong).  Favorite late night snack of red foxes.Bettongia gaimardi cuniculus (Tasmanian Bettong)<a href="http://bie.ala.org.au/species/Bettongia+gaimardi" target="_self">Bettongia gaimardi cuniculus (Tasmanian Bettong)</a><br/> <br/><a href="http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/2783/0" target="_self">IUCN Status: Near Threatened</a><br/> <br/>The IUCN page for Tasmanian Bettong lists the reason for the &ldquo;near threatened&rdquo; status assessment in 2008 as being due to the &ldquo;recent introduction of the Red Fox&rdquo;. That&rsquo;s not surprising because the Red fox is considered the main culprit for the extinction of the other bettong subspecies (<a href="http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=66656" target="_blank">Bettongia gaimardi gaimardi</a>) on the mainland.<br/> <br/>The fox problem in Tasmania was a huge deal&hellip;. a few years ago. I couldn&rsquo;t recall hearing about it recently so I want digging and what I found blew my mind. It&rsquo;s a story with layers like an onion, and is way too big to tell here, so I&rsquo;ll do a blog entry and link it here.<br/> <br/>In the meantime, enjoy looking at this cute guy and sleep a bit easier. A lot has changed in eight years. In fact they&rsquo;ve even been <a href="http://www.mfgowoodlandexperiment.org.au/bettong.html" target="_blank">reintroduced to the mainland</a> and are apparently doing well.

Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) were introduced to mainland Australia in 1845 so that sport hunters could kill at little touch of home.  The foxes then proceeded to chomp through the abundance of small mammals that were on the menu.  Many species such as the mainland bettongs retaliated by becoming extinct.  Foxes were never introduce Tasmania, and since they are ill-equipped for driving jet skis, the small mammal life in the Island state is incredibly abundant, as is attested to by the amount of road kill.  Lots and lots of road kill.

 

There have been foxes in Tassie - that's not disputed.  However like most things in real life, "it's complicated".  Here's a brief history:

  • In 1998 a fox definitely made it to Tassie.  It wandered off a cargo ship in Burnie, was captured on video, and footprints were found on the nearby beach.  Attempts were made to find it, but it proved elusive.
  • There were alleged conspiracies in 1997 & 1999 by three hunters to bring fox pups to Tassie from the mainland.  Their plan was to raise and breed them, and then release populations at three disparate locations in Tassie.  Freedom of Information requests show the police investigated, and thought this information was credible, and presented it to the relevant State Minister, and Federal Senator.
  • Also in 2001 a Fox carcass was handed in having been reportedly shot at Symmons Plains.  An analysis of the stomach content deemed the animal has consumed Tasmanian endemic (Pseudomys higginsi).  This was taken as confirmation that said fox had been alive and feeding in Tasmania.
  • In 2003 another fox carcass was found as road kill on the Bass highway near Burnie and handed in.
  • In 2006 another road kill carcass was handed in.  This was also apparently road kill, this time from near Corana.

 

The ramifications of a fox population becoming entrenched in Tasmania are enormous.  Foxes are associated with serious decline in small mammal populations, but are opportunists and will take birds etc. if possible.  The only silver lining was the belief that any incursion would have been suppressed by an established competitor: Tasmanian devils.  Tragically, in the last few years the devil population has crashed due to the contagious facial tumour disease.

Any response to a fox incursion by necessity must be measured against the risks.  State and Federal Governments set up the Tasmanian Fox Eradication Program.  Over the years it was in operations it spent somewhere between $35M and $50M:

  • Creating a DNA test designed to uniquely identify foxes.
  • Conducting field work using specially trained dogs to find "scat" which was then subjected to that DNA analysis
  • Operating a phone line for reporting sightings, and evaluating the validity thereof.
  • Conducting a 1080 baiting scheme in line with the sighting and scat analysis.

 

It is an understatement to say that there was contention and public scrutiny regarding the FEP.  There were strong views both in defence of, and in favour of scrapping the FEP.  From those in the later group, there were arguments about the validity and volume of the evidence that foxes were present at all.  From those with a pro FEP point of view, there was substantial incontrovertible evidence that foxes were present:

  • Physical evidence in the form of carcases and skull handed in.
  • Numerous reported sightings that were evaluated as credible / reliable.
  • Of the ~10,000 scats found, 56 to 61 (depending on timeframe) tested positive for fox DNA.
  • A decline in sightings in areas where baiting was carried out which was taken as a statistical confirmation that baiting was effectively countering an existent population.

 

Disagreement came about because no foxes were caught or even seen by the field workers in the FEP, shot (or even regularly sighted) by hunters, photographed or filmed.  The public began to scrutinise the physical evidence, lack of corroborated sightings, and the improbability that the only evidence uncovered by the FEP was ~60 fox positive scats.  This was further undermined, when a fox scat was found on Bruny Island: separated from the reset of the State by 2km of water.  Under growing pressure, the Government created a review group with deep and diverse credentials to review the arguments for, methodologies of, and works undertaken by the FEP.

 

The panel examined the reports of mass fox releases by hunters, and the police investigation thereof.  It seems that the police back tracked from their initial position to the pollies and come to the conclusion that there was no credible intelligence to support the story that hunters had released foxes.

 

Next, they compared the frequency of reported sightings with the volume of reporting in news media through time.  They found a correlation, indicating that spikes in sightings followed spikes in media coverage.  These spikes happened in months when foxes numbers would be at their lowest, and when fox sightings are typically fewest on the mainland: prior to breading season.

 

They also looked at the physical specimens handed in, and the analysis / interpretation thereof.  The stories behind the discovery of the specimens were often questionable, and didn't match the state of the physical evidence.  Further, the original analysis made conclusions draped in "definite" language, where speaking in "probabilities" would have been more appropriate.  There is also a history of hoaxing with regard to foxes, so the review panel concluded that only physical evidence obtained through FEP or other rigorous field studies should be considered trustworthy.

 

Even with the rest of the evidence falling down, at least the  DNA evidence would be rock solid, crushing any counter argument like a bowling ball in a hydraulic press.  However, there was one critical factor in the DNA statistics that stands out: there were never multiple positive DNA results in the same location.  Looking factors like the frequency of fox scats, the success rate of the dogs finding them,  the size of a fox’s range, how viable DNA in scats is given the Tassie climate etc. they were able to calculate the probability of not finding at multiple positive scats in any of the field survey locations.  It was almost zero.

 

Staring at a statistical aberration of this magnitude, the panel naturally scrutinised the DNA test.  It was designed to test positive for fox DNA, and only fox DNA.  However when the panel tested it with a range of DNA from other species, it returned positive for a large variety of animals including many common livestock (pigs and cows), invasive species (rabbit and hares), and native species (including devils).  Thus, the most compelling scientific basis for continuing the FEP also fell, and the FEP with it.

 

For those interested, much more detail is available at the panel’s website: http://www.tasmanianfox.com.  I’ve attempted to balance brevity and detail, but the nitty-gritty details are a fascinating journey for those so inclined.

 

Perhaps the most important finding of the panel is this: that science done for conservation, or wherever it’s used to influence policy, should be of the highest standard and open to scrutiny.  I think this is true of government in general, though the exact opposite seems to be the norm. 

More thoughts on that another time.

 

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) Australia Conservation Foxes Politics Tasmania Wildlife http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2016/5/science-is-a-vixen Mon, 30 May 2016 11:51:21 GMT
Consequences http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2016/3/consequences So... I've lost my camera.  That's it.  Gone.  Lots of people have been asking me how.

 

I went out on Saturday to Ben Lomond National Park to meet up with a mate and find some lizards, frog, etc.  We missed each other there.  Instead I stayed shooting landscape at golden hour, and then headed home.  Once I hit mobile coverage he rang me, so I hurried to catch up. 

 

Once I got to the next spot (Hollybank forest), I started swapping my lens etc. for night macro work (frogs).  While I was doing this, a heap of unrelated crap fell out of my car.  I think I sat the camera down while repacked the scattered items.  In a hurry I zipped up my camera bag and headed out.  We walk for about two hours, but didn't find anything to shoot so we moved onto the next spot where we intended to get some birds in the morning.

 

When I got up and went to put my tele zoom lens back on my camera, it wasn't in my bag.  I quickly realised I left it behind and hurried back.  I got back to Hollybank around 7am, but the camera was gone... along with the campers that had been nearby.  I searched for a few hours, and have checked with police etc., but so far nothing.

 

Not having a camera is not a good place for a photographer to be.  It's not the end of the world, but it feels like part of me is gone.  I keep seeing the camera as sleep approaches, and hearing birds and almost reaching for it, or working on post-processing and remembering the settings I was using etc.  I've put an ad in the local paper offering a reward for its return.... but it feels silly, and potentially painfully disappointing, to hope.

 

I'll have to replace it with a less-capable, crop-sensor body and that will be a big step backwards.  Hopefully approaching that as a challenge to step up and still produce good work will get me through. Though I must admit, there's a voice in my head telling me to just pack it all in and go do something else.  I used to spend a lot more time making music, and I still love that.

 

Finding the appropriate "feelings" is hard.  I've done: panic when I realised it was gone; anger that someone took it, sorrow when I think about.  Mainly though I'm confused about how to feel.  It's not like I lost someone I love, and I'm not at all a "things" person..... But my camera....  we captured the world together.

 

Image related: one of the last shots I took with it.

Malurus cyaneusMalurus cyaneusMalurus cyaneus (Superb Fairy-wren)

IUCN Status: Least Concern

There are six subspecies described. Now, given the "species" concept is grey and flexible, you can imagine how fluid "subspecies" is. Regardless, this is the Tassie version, and it's the original, described by Ellis in1782 on Captain Cooks voyage of discovery.

This is a male in mating colouration. As I write this in March, the males are all malting and losing the "look at me" blue and black, and changing into a drab cream/brown affair.

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) Camera Lost http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2016/3/consequences Tue, 15 Mar 2016 11:39:20 GMT
Pause http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2015/10/pause It's been a long time since the last entry.  Far too long, I'll admit.  Here's the story why.

At the end of 2014 Lib (wife) and I were hopeful that we'd be able to continue our six month migration have summer in Tasmania and winter in Queensland.  However that didn't work out.  Both our employers asked that we come back to their respective offices in Brisbane.  We both enjoy our work, so that was substantial motive to come back to the big smoke.

On top of that, the townhouseLib owned needed some love and care after years of renting out individual rooms to a revolving door of tenants that ranged from argo to clueless.  Imagine a conga line of uni students moving furniture up and down a tight stairway, and you'll have a pretty close picture of the dings and marks on the wall.  The townhouse is very close to the train line, and has a great day care centre two door down.

So, while being away has been great, we decided that there were enough things lining up and pulling us back to the big smoke.  So after a very short (three week) holiday in Tasmania last summer, we came back and dug in.  So currently we are both:

  • working full time
  • looking after two and four year old kids (who are great but doing a good job of parenting takes time and satmina).
  • renovating a house.

And that is why I've gone more or less silent.  I've picked up my camera for serious photography only once this year.  Fortunately it included a trip to Girraween NP, which has to be on in my top three places in Australia.  A very early morning rise provided opportunity for this shot, which I'm very happy with.

QLD, Girraween NPQLD, Girraween NPGiraween is awful. Don't go there. You wouldn't like it.

It certainly is not on my list of favorite places in Australia. It is full of all sorts of reptiles that love granite. They're everywhere! So you'd probably end up sleeping with a dragon (or worse).

And that granite: it's hard, steep and unforgiving. Any miss-step and your loved ones will be getting a call from the police.

The wildflowers in spring are sure to give you some sort of allergy, and you know how soft you are.

If you get up at dawn you'll be all alone. In fact if you're walking there, most of the time you'll be alone.

Disclaimer: I don't want you to go there.... for your own good. Best to stay at home.

The good news is that this crazily busy period is coming to a close.  We're heading back down to Tassie for a longer break again this summer.  I won't be as time poor, and I've got a list of exiting, challenging photography projects to tackle.  So new content, both photographic and written should start appearing again more consistently in the New Year.

Until then....

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) Future Hopse Personal Plans Update http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2015/10/pause Wed, 14 Oct 2015 03:23:17 GMT
Dangerous ground http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/12/dangerous-ground What image manipulation is acceptable, and conversely unacceptable?  It's a question that cuts to the heart of modern photography.

This a a composite shot of two photos, creating a larger depth of field than is possible in a single image.

The variety of available image manipulation tools seems to compare with the number s stars in the sky, and offer seemingly limitless scope when altering or creating content.  Running counter to that trend is a strong purist culture that argues that work should be as it comes "Straight Out Of Camera" (SOOC).  This harkens back to film where once you exposed the film that was that.  However when you look at the reality of the situation, I think the SOOC approach to photography is weak for three critical points:

1.  Regardless of whether an analogue or digital camera is in our hands, before we push the shutter release button we've already made many decisions and judgements about how the image should look:

  • Technical decisions like camera type, shutter speed, aperture, focal length, focal point, ISO speed and others can completely change the resultant image.
  • Non-technical decisions like, composition of the image, time of day, natural lighting conditions, etc. can render the same scene in ways that will invoke radically different responses from viewers.
  • Artificial influences: artificial lighting, filters, motion effects etc.

2.  Right from the origins of photography, manipulation was prevalent and necessary.  Creating an exposed film means nothing if you don't process it into slides, negatives, prints etc.  Each processing point involves human influence in many ways (exposure time, chemical choice and amount etc).  In fact, many of the modern manipulation tools and techniques are digital equivalents of those used film processing: dodge and burn being the obvious example.  By the way, dodge and burn were made popular by Ansel Adams: a (film) photography legend and pin up boy for the uninformed in the SOOC camp.

3.  SOOC is meaningless.  Seriously!  Most digital cameras will record the image data in either JPEG or RAW format.  If the SOOC advocate is taking JPEG images off the camera, then what they're not acknowledging is that the camera has already done a heap of post processing to convert the camera data into a JPEG including: noise reduction, colour balancing, sharpening, brightness and contrast adjustments, dynamic range compression, colour space mapping etc.  That's a lot of processing, and to my mind having a camera do it automatically is much less desirable than having a skilled person with insight into the individual shot managing the process.  Further, if you're taking the RAW image files of the camera, all you've got is a dump of the sensor data (which is absolutely the most versatile starting point).  However you've still got to do at least most of the things the camera did in the JPEG conversion, to convert the image into something actually useful for printing or distribution.

So "SOOC" is a fairy tail: it never existed.  So why is so much energy spent by photographers debating it?  The answer is both simple and complex, and there's a lot of room for opinion.

Some in the SOOC came even disparage cropping. Try shooting birds in flight with that philosphy.

There are two simple mindsets that are worlds apart:

1.  It's photography - it should be about the most true, pure, accurate realistic rendition of the subject possible.

2.  It's art - completely open to manipulation and interpretation to suite the story telling purpose of the artist.

Personally, I think both are true for every photo we take! As humans we cannot help but bring our bias and personalities to bare any time we process information.  Our individuality is wonderful and should be celebrated.  At the same time, we do have largely common ways of thinking, morality, social values etc, and do hunger for real truth and fact.  It's important to acknowledge that individual subjectiveness and universal commonality occur at the same time - amazing!  However, where in the enormous space between the photography / art extreme mindsets an individual image falls is absolutely critical.  The most critical factors that dictates where an image falls in that rage is: purpose.

If the purpose of the work is to convey beauty or grandeur, to invoke emotion or wonder in my viewers, then I will acknowledge that I think more of the work as art.  Landscape, portrait, event, and travel photography are all obvious contenders for this category.  In these situations surely the manipulation is entirely up to the photographer, and then its the subjective experience of the viewer that determines as to whether it was effective.

If the purpose of the work is to convey the details of something as it really is, then obviously the manipulation of image and especially pixel painting is on rocky ground.  There's a plethora of photography genera in this category also: forensic, product, scientific, wildlife (more on this later), journalism, portrait, and many more.  However even where the purpose is to render a true representation of the subject, significant manipulation (including pixel painting) may be acceptable: e.g. removing an inconsequential distraction from a background.  Then again it may not.  It just depends on the purpose of the shot.

Purpose is symbiotic with viewer expectation.  If the purpose of the image is to show evidence in court, then clearly the viewer is expecting the most accurate, honest rendition of the subject possible.  If the image is a specimen in a field guide on birds, then the expectation might be that it is representative of the species and useful for identification etc.  If the image is to be used in advertising then, rightly or wrongly, there may be a higher expectation that the image has been tweaked.  However expectation is subjective and we need to acknowledge that some viewers will simply have unreasonable or unrealistic expectations with regards to the degree of acceptable manipulation.

Purpose and expectation tie into morality - again subjective.  Photo manipulation can clearly be immoral.  Doctoring evidence is an easy example.  However, in this subjective world of shade of moral greys, where is the line?  For me if an image has been manipulated to the point where reasonable viewers would reach a different outcome or realisation in relation to its purpose, then a wrong has been done.  The photo has been manipulated to bring you to a decision, assessment or appreciation different to the one you would have had you been presented with the "real" unaltered version.  In other words, the manipulation is ultimately of the viewer.  The photo is just the conduit.

Photography, like all art is ultimately a communication between the creator (photographer) and the observer (viewer).  Like any communication, there can be distrust and deceit between the parties.  However there can be honesty, beauty and openness as well.  People deeply care about photography, both as photographers and audience (note that photographers are often also passionate viewers of each other's work).  Words like "fraud", "deception", and "lies" carry strong negative conotations, and photographic manipulation is often described as such.  Photographers should be mindful of this simple truth: generally people want to be able to trust what they see.  The reassurance of this simple though: "If I didn't see it, it's not real", crumbles away if I do see it, and it's not real.

In a hypothetically, perfect world we'd all like 100% of our shots to be perfect SOOC, but when shooting difficult subjects, with imperfect technology, in difficult environments, and hard time limits, adaptability is just common sense.

So how does manipulation apply to my work?  First, I think the idea behind SOOC is admirable: get the best possible image in camera and minimise post processing.  When I'm shooting wildlife, the primary purpose is to create images that are representative of the subject.  I will do pixel painting to remove distractions (especially from backgrounds), and I sometimes will actually create background if the image isn't framed as I would like.  I try to ensure that colouration is accurate, though I will add a subtle level of saturation if I think it's needed... though I've found that my judgment has changed over time, which I hear is common as photographers gain experience.

I actually really like manipulation rules defined by perhaps Australia's premier wildlife photography contest, ANZANG:

17) In all sections of the Competition except the Interpretive Photography section, Entries taken with film cameras or digital cameras must not be adjusted beyond a level that would be applied in conventional optical printing techniques. This means image adjustments in all sections of the Competition (except the Interpretive Photography Section) are only acceptable if limited to levels, curves, colour, saturation and contrast work and minor cleaning work. The integrity of the original subject with its form and (if applicable) its behaviour must be maintained. Compositing is not allowed but in-camera HDR that results in a single image is allowed provided that it is disclosed at the time the Entry is submitted. Sharpening is allowed. Cropping is allowed. Stitched landscape panoramas are allowed in the Landscape, Monochrome and Junior categories, provided that all original images can be provided on request and stitching is disclosed in the statement. There are no adjustment restrictions for the Interpretive Photography section.

It's a pity that last years winner created so many justified doubts (I share them), and prompted a review of rules.  More on contests in a future blog entry.

When it comes to landscape, event, or portrait work, I'm less constrained with manipulation.  I'll use HDR, healing, stronger alterations to colour balance or saturation, whatever adjustments make the image pleasing to me, and hopefully all viewers.  However, I tend to like very natural looking shots, though I have noticed I do like the colours a touch more vivid sometimes, depending on the subject and mood of the photo.

First Apostles, VictoriaHDR example

I can easily define situations where I think manipulation is OK, and where it is definitely wrong.  However there's a lot of grey in between and that gets tricky.  An acquaintance of mine was talking about digitally removing ID bands off the legs endangered birds they'd photographed.  It doesn't change the bird, but it definitely does change the significance of the shot amongst birders.  These were still wild bird, but part of a management program.  This happened years ago, and I still can't get off the fence and say if I think it's OK.

In one of my field guides there is a photo is (I think) been overly colour staurated.  It's a photo of a vivdly coloured snake, and it's almost glowing.  The photographer failed to notice that the desert foliage in the shot was also overly saturated.  I have a problem with that because this guide is a tool that people use as the basis of identifiy which species an individual belongs to.  Distorting colouration weakens the trust in all the photography in the book for that purpose.  This shows that you can still cross the line into unacceptable manipulation without having to do pixel painting.

No one approach can work for all photographers, or even all the work of an individual photographer.  However anyone serious about photography should think about these issues every so often, and be prepared to engage in conversation about how manipulation relates to their work.  We should be able to discuss it with humility and open minds...... but simple minds require simple solutions to complex issues.

Finally: some recommended material on the topic:

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) Ethics Manipulation Post Processing SOOC http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/12/dangerous-ground Tue, 09 Dec 2014 11:29:12 GMT
Tamron 150-600mm Prt II http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/10/tamron-150-600mm-prt-ii In a previous blog entry regarding this lens I promised an update.  Now it's time to deliver.  I've held off writing this because I'm so conflicted.  The lens sometimes delivers such good results that I keep hoping  that I'll find a way to overcome the issues I've got with it.  In a nut shell this is my take on the lens: I know it can do great things - but not as often is I'd like, in the taxing environments and subjects I shoot.

I love wildlife photography, and wanted a long lens that would let me move into bird photography, and shoot basking reptiles and mammals without disturbing them.  However birds are small, often very small, and constantly on the move: fast.  Also, they are often in partial light or low light as in forests or other plant cover.  This places a lot of demands on a lens.  It needs to have the greatest focal length, largest aperture, best autofocus (AF), and highest image quality (IQ) possible.  There are other important considerations that don't directly impact on the image or optic quality: price, size, and weight.  All these considerations go into the mix and compromise must be made.

First let's address the things the Tamron does well:

  1. The focal length of the 150-600mm is simply wonderful.  The zoom capability is incredibly versatile, and the maximum focal length (600mm) is what I find myself using for birding 90% of the time.  I'm still working at getting closer to the birds I'm shooting, but I certainly wouldn't want to give up 600mm, and in fact I'm very seriously considering getting the new 7D crop body which would make it 1.6 times longer.
  2. Both the size and weight of the lens are very good.  I can hand hold this lens for long periods, in fact so far it's the only way I use it (apart from occasionally resting it on a convenient branch or fence).  It's still a big lens, and I certainly notice how much heavier it is when I switch back to my 150mm macro, but in comparison to all the other lenses in similar focal ranges, it shines.
  3. The lens is capable of very good IQ.  Even at 600mm I get images where I'm excited to see the first time I review them on a big screen.  I'm really picky with image quality - especially with birds.  You want to see the detail in the feathers since they are most defining feature.  I know the lens is capable of producing wonderfully good IQ, but it doesn't do that nearly often enough in the situations I shoot in, which brings us to...
  4. Price.  Tamron owns the market in super telephotos with this lens.  There is simply no competition at the moment - though Sigma has just announced two competing products.

Things the Tamron is not so good at:

  1. Autofocus.  It's by far the weakest feature of this lens.  I think if I were shooting sports or something other than tiny, fast animals it would be fine, however I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm pretty disappointed with the AF.  It's simply not fast enough, not accurate enough, and it wanders.  I can take a burst of say 13 shots with AI Servo and you can see the focus wander from shot to shot.  The result is that I have to spend a lot of time culling photos where the AF is out, and too often I've got shots where the AF has missed, but everything else was just magical.  It's heartbreaking.  More on this at the end.

Things about the Tamron that just "are" (neither good nor bad):

  1. Aperture.  The maximum aperture of the lens is f5 through f6.3 (depending on focal length).  Since I shoot at the long end of the focal range, I generally get maximum aperture of f6.3, so by the time I stop it down a bit to help IQ, I'm looking at f8 or smaller.  Obviously I wish it were closer to the f4 of the big primes, but that comes with a cost in size, weight, price and price (not a typo).

Where does that leave me with this lens?  I honestly don't know.

I really, really want to like it.  It's got heaps going for it and I think for anything but birding it would be great.  Bugger.

I went to the trouble to send in to the Tamron workshop in Peth in the hope that a new firmware version I'd heard about online would fix the AF issues.  Unfortunately all I got back was a confirmation that the lens already had the latest firmware, and was behaving as expected.

I've come to the point where I'll be keeping an eye on reviews when the new Sigma models hit the market.  The "sports" model is supposed to have faster AF, but it's nearly twice the weight and price of the Tamron.  The only other alternative is a big prime, and even second-hand they're very, very expensive.

Until then, I'll keep shooting with the Tamron, working on technique and looking at tweaking the AF in the hope that I can get better keeper rates.  It does deliver some stunning shots.... I just wish I got results like this with it more often, could so you some of the potentially amazing shots where the AF missed.

Myzomela sanguinolentaMyzomela sanguinolentaMyzomela sanguinolenta (Scarlet Honeyeater)

IUCN Status: Least Concern.

There is a term that springs to mind when I think about this species: sexual dimorphism. It refere to the difference in form between the genders of the same species. It's common among birds for the male of a spieces to have more vivid colouration. However with this species the difference between the outrageously colourful male (next photo) and the completely bland brown female (shown here) is dramatic.

In other animals like frogs or spiders, the differences can be even more profound: size and shape can varies as well as colouration. Luckily for us the male and female of our species are exactly the same.
Myzomela sanguinolentaMyzomela sanguinolentaMyzomela sanguinolenta (Scarlet Honeyeater)

IUCN Status: Least Concern.

He's just an attention seeker.

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) 150-600mm Tamron birding lens wildlife http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/10/tamron-150-600mm-prt-ii Thu, 16 Oct 2014 04:37:21 GMT
Canon 7D II http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/9/canon-7d-ii Canon has finally announced the 7D II crop body.  The first version of this camera came out about five years ago, and since then it's been a hit with wildlife photographers because of its 1.6x crop factor and higher end specs.  Five years is a long time though, and the 7D is overdue for a overhaul.

I can hear birders going crazy already scrambling for a copy of this body because:

  1. On crop bodies all lenses become about 1.6x "longer" (have an extra 1.6 times magnification).  Birds don't like you getting too close.  We try and get around it with "hides" and baiting (though hard core birders say that's cheating) etc, but at the end of the day, not having to be as close means more chance of a natural looking shot.
  2. It's got an improved autofocus system that will *hopefully* mean faster, more accurate AF.  The old 7D was a bit "hit and miss" with it's AF - especially in comparison to more modern bodies like the 5D III.  Better AF means two things: a higher probability of getting an in focus shot (critical in wildlife where you may only get one chance), and it allows you go after shots where the previous AF wouldn't keep up (faster birds in flight for example).
  3. The autofocus will work down to f/8.  This means that a 500mm or 600mm f/4 lens with a 2x teleconverter will still autofocus!  For us who can't afford that glass, our 150-600mm f/5.6-6.4 will autofocus through most of its range with a 1.4x teleconverter.... though I don't think I'd be willing to suffer the IQ drop.
  4. NOISE!  Apparently it will produce less noise in low light.  Even in good light, the tele lenses birders tend to want don't let heaps of light in.  By the time you go into a forest, overcast, or early/late light situation, winding up the ISO is the only real solution.  Even in good light, being able to run a long lens stopped down is advantageous for better IQ and DOF.
  5. Higher resolution (slightly).  Physics dictates that as you cram more pixels into the same size sensor, noise should increase.  So that they could reduce noise, but also give it 1.8MP bump is nice.  More pixel provides for more opportunity to crop if needed.

All in all it makes for a "wet the pants" level of excitement amongst some people.  Hopefully when reviews, sample images, and real world images start appearing, all these points will be ticked off and the 7D II will be a truly awesome wildlife body.  Then I'll just have to think seriously about whether to buy one.... and the marital problems associated therewith.  ;-)

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/9/canon-7d-ii Wed, 17 Sep 2014 07:38:48 GMT
Tamron 150-600mm http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/7/tamron-150-600mm My kit had nothing useful for birding, or for basking reptiles... and that just could not be.  It came to the point where I even had to hire a Canon 100-400mm for my trip to WA.  The situation needed to be addressed while I still have some time to dedicate to photography and the geographic opportunities of our current migratory lifestyle.

I've read all the reviews on the Tamron 150-600mm and decided that it was unlikely I could find a better lens for the dollars.  There are some very, very compelling reasons to like this lens:

  • 600mm - that's a fantastic long focal length and certainly in the useful range for birding.
  • 150mm - that's a useful close focal length, and happens to be the same as my macro lens, so it's a familiar start point.
  • x4 zoom - wow!  The felxibility this lens provides when compose your shots and adjust where you have no control over the range to you subject etc, is just wonderful.
  • Size & weight - it's not a small lens, but it's not a monster life some of the faster primes.  I've hand held it now for a few hours at a time with no big issues.
  • Cost - If, like me, you can't afford big fast prime glass this lens will let you get shots and shoot subject that you'd simply miss without it.
  • Image quality (IQ) - I think the image quality of this lens, even at 600mm can be very good (as the image below demonstrates).

Pandion haliaetusPandion haliaetusPandion haliaetus (Osprey)

IUCN Status: Least Concern.

Taxonomy is hard. According to some there are actually four species/sub species of Osprey (see wikipedia for details). However the study that made this differential (base on genetics) was not adequately peer reviewed (checked by other scientists) and so is not acknowledged (see the ICUN link).

The boundaries of what is a "species" are not hard and fast. Nature refuses to be easily categorised and labelled. It's fluid, flexible and changing; as is our understanding of it. That makes it both messy and intriguing: but increasingly alien to people living in increasingly sterile, clean, prescribed, modern lives.

Now to provide a balance, there are a few things I'm not 100% happy with:

  • Image Quality (IQ) - while the IQ can be very good, often it is not.  I've been shooting hand held, but at very high shutter speeds (1/1600) so that should eliminate a lot of steadiness issues.  Some shots look wonderful even pixel peeping at 100%, but a lot are not as sharp as I would like.  Now, I realise my expectations are not fair or appropriate... because I'm comparing it to the shots I see my mate getting with his Canon 500mm f4 (that's a > $10,000 lens), and I've already said that on some shots IQ is very, very good.... but not consistently.  NOTE: I don't have a lot of experience with long glass, so it is possible this is a technique issue on my part.
  • AI Servo -  I got this lens with birding in mind and I'll admit I'm pushing what's possible shooting birds in flight.  However even when I've tried using AI Servo on my kids riding tricycles, or a helicopter doing a simulated sea rescue (ie not moving much), the results with AI servo have been..... ordinary.  It seems slow, and simply doesn't appear to track very well.  Once again, this is new territory for me.  I'm trying on big(ish), slow(ish) sea birds and struggling.  At the moment, I can't see it tracking smaller, faster birds at all.  I'd been pumped for shooting the insanely agile rainbow lorikeets in flight, but doubt I'll be able to.

So, the short version is that I'm generally very happy with the lens, and hopefully that as my technique improves, I'll get more consistent results and my keeper ratio should go up.  The AI servo issue has me a bit worried, but I'm hopeful that a rumoured firmware upgrade might improve that.

At some point I'll post a follow up to let you know how I get on with the lens in a few months.

 

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) 150-600mm Tamron lens http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/7/tamron-150-600mm Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:13:39 GMT
Heros http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/6/heros Surely one of life’s greatest disappointments is when our heroes let us down.  We build an image of the person and hold them to it.  When they fall short, it shakes us.  Given the high standard the title "hero" implies, a moment’s thought would reveal that this disappointment is what happens more often than not.


On the flip side, when our heroes live up to or even exceed our image of them, what a wondrous moment.  That was what happened for my wife recently, and all our family was touched and uplifted by it.


While in Broken Hill recently, Lib wanted to call into the Jack Absalom gallery.  She had been in love with his art since school, and done projects on him etc.  That's understandable given the beauty, accessibility and topic of his work.  Jack greeted us at the door and immediately engaged Lib and the kids like they were old friends.  He gave Jon a coaster to keep his "whiskey" on and then included Zena, giving her one too.  He talked to Lib about his work, his life, art in general and Broken Hill in particular.  He was just a top bloke.

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/6/heros Sat, 28 Jun 2014 06:49:20 GMT
Backups http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/5/backups First let me confess: I'm shocking at getting through sorting and processing my shots.  It takes me ages, and I always have a huge back log.  In fact you can expect that I could throw up an image from years ago that I've just got around to looking at properly.  It's so back that of the roughly 500GB of space my photography directory takes up, 300GB is in the "new" folder (yikes).

Regardless, that makes 200GB of shots I've got sorted, processed (sort of - some of my earlier shooting is not well sorted).  I use 1TB portable USB drives for backup.  I have one in QLD, and one in Tassie.  Whenever I migrate, before I leave, I update the local one and hide it away.  The problem is that there are big time gaps between the updates.  I've wanted an online solution for backup - but have always found them too expensive..... until now.

Amazon offers a very cool service called Glacier.  It's purpose built to hold data that does not change - so it suites my sorted images perfectly.  It's got some caveats regarding retrieval in the event that something goes wrong (it can be slow, and costs if bulk retrieval needed).  However, it's super cheap (1 cent per GB per month), and super durable (99.999999999% availability). 

The only downside I've found is that since it's in the cloud, it's dependant on a decent internet connection.  In Tassie, we normally stay a fair way out of town so we only got 2.5MB/s over ADSL.  Not great - but I had an unlimited plan, and could just let it run as long as it took.  Here in QLD, we're in one of the fastest growing suburbs in Australia, and there's not ADSL!  Seriously - I'm in a complex of 30 units and can't get ADSL (to far to the exchange).  Last year we stayed in the complex behind this and couldn't even get testing phone lines - because there was no spare ports at the exchange!  I've written to the local member here, but may as well have shouted my problem at the wall - no response whatsoever.

Anyway... back on topic.  Try Glacier - it's awesome.  I'm using the FastGlacier client, and while I haven't gone through all it's capability, and its done a great job so far.

Final Note: my IT background means I still very paranoid about data saftey.  As I tell folks: data is always trying to escape.  So I'm sticking with my dual USB drives as well.

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) Amazon Backups FastGlacier Glacier USB Drive http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/5/backups Sat, 31 May 2014 04:34:05 GMT
New Associations http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/4/new-associations A few days ago I applied for membership to the group Nature Photographers Tasmania.  I was very hopeful because my goals of using my work to promote conservation seemed to align well with theirs.  They also work closely, and actively with conservation organisations, and the opportunity to be involved with saving and shooting remote, precious habitat is exciting.  Also, some very accomplished photographers are among the membership - some of whom I've looked up to.

 

And so now I've heard back that my application was accepted, and I'm a member!  I'm very happy and anticipate there will be more entries in here in the later part of the year, since as the cold is coming, so we are migrating north for a while.

 

Here's an unrelated pic of melaluca stumps in swamp waters on the north west Tassie coast.

Many ReflectionsMany ReflectionsEvery photographer has at least one mirrored symetry shot.

This was a swamp where the melaleuca had died back leaving just spindley stumps jutting out of the water.

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) Nature Photographers Tasmania membership http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/4/new-associations Fri, 18 Apr 2014 07:06:14 GMT
Portrait Head Positions http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/1/portrait-head-positions  

Petrogale mareebaPetrogale mareebaPetrogale mareeba (Mareeba Rock-Wallaby)

Status: least concern

A close up of one of these cute guys. There really little - to eyeball this one, I had the camera only 40-50cm from the ground. If you look at the full res image, you can see me in the reflections on his eye 8-).

Petrogale mareebaPetrogale mareebaPetrogale mareeba (Mareeba Rock-Wallaby)

Status: least concern

I couldn't find another page worth linking to for more information. That's a bit sad.
I was uploading the shots attached, and confirming the technical terms of the orientation of the head in portraits to put in the keywords.

So the standard terms are:

  1. "Full face" for straight on (as in the image above)
  2. "3/4", where the head is turned slightly away
  3. "Profile", where the the head is shot side on (as in the image on the right)

This site shows it well: http://portrait-photographer.blogspot.com.au/2009/04/views-of-face.html

 

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) Head Names Portrait Position http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/1/portrait-head-positions Mon, 27 Jan 2014 12:25:07 GMT
Alone http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/1/alone My wife and I are an endangered species: morally conservative, financially conservative, balanced socialist leaning, and desiring urgent practical environmental conservation.  We find ourselves very isolated in the modern political landscape, but very grateful that at least we have each other in this.  At election time we grieve that there is no candidate that we can affirm.  Instead we are force to pick the one least disliked.  I guess there's no media attention for middle ground pollies.

 

We're down in Tasmania now for a few of months.  It's a great place to spend summer: fantastic weather, amazing scenery, friendly people, incredible abundance of mammalian life (attached photo related), and some interesting economics thrown in.  There's one thing though that's a challenge: the them versus us mentality down here regarding conservation and the environment.  Given the green movement was born here, and they hold the balance of political power down here, you'd think the general populace would have a greater consideration or empathy for environmentalism.  The reality is the exact opposite.

Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseusMacropus rufogriseus rufogriseusMacropus rufogriseus rufogriseus (Bennett's Wallaby)

Status: least concern

In Tasmania for a while, and you really can't do nature photography down here and ignore the mammalian life. It's everywhere! As soon as twilight starts they come out in their hundreds. BTW: these guys are a sub-species, endemic to Tassie.

I'm very much interested in having great photos on two levels:
1) Shots that are beautiful
2) Shots that capture the essence of the subject.
These two goals don't always harmonise, but when they do, the results are intensely satisfying.

Photography forms a big part of my life at the moment, and mostly I shoot natural history.  It comes up in conversations, particularly when I meet new people, as inevitably they ask "what do you do", or "what have you been doing"?  Work and the environment are in the mix straight away.  You never know where these conversations will go.  I've had discussions with good, well intentioned folk who sincerely think that:

  1. Tasmania would be better off without world heritage status over much of the State
  2. More mining should be done in the areas currently protected to benefit the local economy
  3. There are huge tracts of remnant forest locked up in the "wilderness" areas
  4. Forestry doesn't (or hasn't for a long time) clear fell and burn old growth / remnant forest
  5. Clear felling is better than selective harvesting
  6. The wet forests are quick growing
  7. The economic problems here are caused by the Greens hamstringing the Liberals in minority government
  8. Climate change is a lie.

With the exception of 5 and 6, I think these are wrong (to the best of my understanding).  The only reason I exclude these two is that I'm don't know the science, and though I'm skeptical, I like to consider both sides of an argument.  Therefore, until I get a chance to gain at least some semblance of understanding, I simply don't know.

 

We mostly move in conservative social circles, and as I've said previously: conservatives are the least interested in conservation.  The further to the right you go, the more this becomes the case.  People aligned to the far right honour wealth and the pursuit of wealth above everything else.  For example, conservatives lament government budget deficits as accumulating debt for future generations.  However, when it comes to the impact of "progress" on the environment, you'll never hear a conservative argue that a project should be shelved or a business sector shut down because future generations will have to deal with the environmental fallout.

 

Not to say the extreme of the left isn't also hypocritical.  They block projects that would be subject to strict monitoring and control and benefit the economy.  Yet, they are still consumers of the products (paper, energy, timber, food, etc) that are subsequently produced in foreign locations, to the benefit of foreign economies, and subject to much weaker controls.  Let's call this what it is: petty selfish NIMBYism.

 

Perhaps the real lesson is: beware of anyone who would hold their ideals above the practical good of a fellow human being, humankind, and the greater ecosystem we are inately part of.

 

 

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) Conservation greed hypocrisy isolation politics http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2014/1/alone Sat, 25 Jan 2014 10:46:02 GMT
It Never Ends http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2013/12/ItNeverEnds One of the things I love about photography is there's always something more.  There another subject, in another place, with other people, using different gear, trying different techniques, to create new work.  There's always room to learn and improve.

Sometimes this can be an issue when we look back at earlier work and lament opportunity lost and results that we could improve on with the experience gained in the meantime.  Mostly, I find it a real joy to be able to absorb more and more both in breadth and depth of the totality of photography, to continually be challenged and strive to improve.

Today I was looking at one of my favourite sites and discovered a complete gem of a page that gave wonderful insight into a question that's been bopping around in my head since I came across a casual comment that 50mm lenses are most like our eye's focal length:  What's is the difference between a camera and our eye, and how can I get images that better represent what I see?

I'll leave you read the detail for yourself, but the answers surprised me (particularly with regard to dynamic range):

http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/cameras-vs-human-eye.htm

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) Camera Comparison Eye Lens http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2013/12/ItNeverEnds Fri, 06 Dec 2013 04:55:53 GMT
It's On http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2013/9/its-on It's on!  The website is a goer.  For the next year I'll be trying to make a full fist of getting my work out there and in front of as many folk as possible.  Hopefully lots will see it and enjoy it.


I went with Zenfolio because they've got integration with print labs across the planet (including here in Oz), and their site capabilities look pretty good.  So far I'm pretty impressed, but will see how things go over the next year.


At the moment I'm trying to work through a backlog of shots that need processing, as well as getting this site up, and ramping up my shooting as the warm weather rolls in.  Add to that part time work, two kids under three, and a move to Tassie for a few months, and you've got "frantic".  However life is good and fulfilling.


My hopes for this site are to primarily show my work, and hopefully earn enough revenue to fund a few equipment purchases and trips to shoot new subjects.  Well see how that works out.  In this blog I hope to be able to share some of the insights etc. I've picked up or been shown. I'm serious about improving and learning and love the idea of us building each other up.  Steel sharpens steel.


This blog will also contain stories and thoughts about my work and the subjects I shoot.  Once again to kick off lets talk about the attached photo I just finished processing.  It's Litoria Raniformis.  It's common names are "Green and Gold Frog" in Tasmania and "Growling grass frog" in Victoria.  I've chased them mainly in Tassie, as I tend to spend time there most summers.  They used to be very common, however they are in serious decline there (probably due to habitat destruction and the introduction of Mosquito Fish (Gambusia holbrooki)).  They are big strong frogs, beautifully marked with vivid colours.

 

Litoria raniformisLitoria raniformisLitoria Raniformis (Green and Gold Frog)

Stunning frog species that is getting hard to see in Tasmania. I looked over two summers to find a site that had them in any numbers.

Raniformis is not easy to find - though that wasn't the case to fairly recently.  I first saw them in the Tamar wetlands, where they often seen basking in the sun in a small section between the visitor centre and the car park.  Good eyes are needed to spot them.  In my searches for them, I ran into an old timer who was telling me about a land care project site that was apparently crawling with them.  I did manage to spotlight a couple there also.


Older folks I've spoken to about them on Tassie and King Island talk about how common they were.  They'd find them in all sorts of places and I even got the unfortunate retelling of how they used them for bait.  It alarms me that these folk don't seem to have a sense of loss or concern about such an amazing part of their natural world disappearing.  It's not ignorance: they know the frogs are gone.  I think they just don't care.  It also alarms me that younger people don't know that these beauties were once common - and so don't know or notice their absence.  Either was they ARE dissapearing and we ARE largely indefferent to it..... but both those things can change!


“You cannot depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus” - Mark Twain
 

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braddouglasphotography@gmail.com (Brad Douglas Photography) Hopes Litoria Raniformis dreams http://photography.braddouglas.com.au/blog/2013/9/its-on Sat, 21 Sep 2013 12:30:37 GMT