Photography …

… it’s a bit like fishing. There’s always the one that got away. It doesn’t matter how prepared you think you are the opportunity presents and disappears in a nano second. One of my photography lecturers used to talk about what he called ‘the retrospective drive home’ where you analyse everything you did and didn’t do that contrived to create that missed opportunity. The frustrating thing is as you try and tell someone about it they invariably say “A photograph or it didn’t happen”.  Well this time I’ve got the photos to prove it! Sort of.

The other day I was walking along the Swan River foreshore at Claremont when I saw an Osprey drop like a stone from the air and scoop up a fish.  In less than the blink of an eye it was over. I was ready the camera was out of the bag and had a long lens fitted, it was switched on and the settings were optimised. So what did I get?

The osprey making its escape with catch of the day.

With some Photoshop magic this is what I got.

 

That was the best I could get – pathetic isn’t it? There I am with (hang on the other half may read this) an untold amount of money tied up in photo equipment and this is it! I remember watching the original Bladerunner where they had a fancy doodad that could extract a useable photo out of some ridiculous enlargement. You know that film was set in 2019 and it is now 2018 and we haven’t got that fancy photo doodad let alone flying cars. The future is such a disappointment. So as I walk away from the scene looking dismally at the LCD on the back of the camera I’m mentally kicking my backside.

Half an hour later I hear a commotion coming from the water. A shoal of fishing flapping on the surface coming on to the shoreline. Low and behold a fin and then a head break the surface. It’s a pair of bottle nosed dolphins driving fish into the shore. With the relaxes of a dead cat I leap into action and fire off a burst.

 

Claremont Foreshore Walk by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Indo-Pacific Bottle Nosed Dolphins can often be seen in in Freshwater Bay. They often drive shoals of fish into towards the shore to make hunting easier. They also feed on the crabs found on the sandbar.

 

Well this time I got a sharp photo of something recognisable as a dolphin. But that is the best I got. This wildlife photography lark is hard – the wildlife aren’t giving me chance.

Way Down South

Warperup Creek by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Warperup Creek, Margaret River, Western Australia. Apple iPhone SE panoramic mode. Exposure: 1/1000, f2.2 at ISO 40.

 

I had the chance to nip down to Margaret River for the day while my partner, Helen, was playing croquet in Bunbury. Most people when they think of Margaret River think about wine or surfing but there is more to the area than that. It is a beautiful part of the world with forests and beaches that are home to some very spectacular flora and fauna. I was looking for orchids, but as I had the dog with me I wanted to tire her out before so she would be more settled while I was on the hunt. I don’t know whether you, my dear readers are fans of so-called cosy crime TV such as Morse, Lewes, Midsummer Murder, or Endeavour, but when you watch those it is always the dog walker that finds the body. To be more precise it is the dog who finds the body. Well we were just walking along a track when Frida – the dog – took off like a rocket into the undergrowth and after much thrashing around emerged holding a large femur. As far as she was concerned she had found treasure and after a couple of minutes later thundered back into the bush and reappeared with another. At this stage I was wondering whether she had found a body and whether I should have a look, but I decided to have a look to see what sort of bones they were. Now whenever Frida gets a bone she becomes very possessive and develops a level of distrust befitting a paranoid schizophrenic. Fortunately she hands over the bone nicely as she obviously feels that she a great big pile of the things and again dives into the bush to return with the skull. Definitely not human, much to my relief, it was a western grey kangaroo which had obviously been hit by a car and managed to drag itself to these bushes to die. My overseas readers may not realise this but ‘roos are a bit like rabbits, if they get dazzled by car headlights they will just sit in the road rather than take off. Unlike rabbits they make more of a mess of your car.

 

Alas Poor Yorick by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Frida’s treasure. The skull of a western grey kangaroo round near the busy Caves Road, Margaret River, Western Australia. Canon EOS 6D with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens. Exposure: 1/400, f5.6 at ISO 100.

 

Thankfully after all that excitement we managed to find what we were looking for which were leafless  and hare orchids.

 

Leafless Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Leafless orchid (Praecoxanthus aphyllus), Margaret River, Western Australia. Canon EOS6d with Canon EF 100mm f2.8 IS L macro lens. Exposure: 1/100, f11, at ISO 1600.

 

 

Rise Above The Rest by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Hare orchid (Leporella fimbriata), Margaret River, Western Australia. Canon EOS6d with Canon EF 100mm f2.8 IS L macro lens. Exposure: 1/60, f8, ISO 800.

 

 

A Long Walk On A Long Pier

When I was a kid one of the many rebuffs used was “take a long walk on a short pier” – it was, I suppose, a more imaginative way of saying get lost. Well whoever first coined the phrase hadn’t taken into account Busselton Jetty in Busselton Western Australia.

Busselton Jetty by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Busselton Jetty is longest timber piled jetty in the southern hemisphere and is a popular tourist attraction. Canon EOS6d with Canon EF 24-70mm f4 IS L lens. Exposure: 1/60 sec, f11 at ISO 100.

 

Busselton Jetty is the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere and it is 1.81Km or 1.12 miles long. Building the jetty commenced in 1853 and it opened in 1865 and by the 1880’s it was already attracting tourists. By 1972 the jetty ceased operation as a commercial port and today it attracts a staggering 450,000 people per year.

 

Busselton Jetty by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The sculpture “Fish” (the sea in her belly) stares enigmatically out to sea by the Busselton Jetty. Canon EOS6d with Canon EF 24-70mm f4 IS L lens. Exposure: 1/80 sec, f16 at ISO 400.

 

Busselton Jetty by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
X marks the spot. Over the course of the jetty’s 152 year history it has been extended several times. Each red X indicates the previous limit of the jetty Canon EOS6d with Canon EF 24-70mm f4 IS L lens. Exposure: 1/20 sec, f16 at ISO 100.

 

At the end of the jetty is the Underwater Observatory which takes visitor down 8m to the seabed where they can observe the huge variety of marine life that has made the jetty home.

 

Busselton Jetty by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
At the end of Busselton Jetty is the Underwater Observatory where you cab descend to a depth of 8 metres to view the marine life that calls the jetty home. Canon EOS6d with Canon EF 24-70mm f4 IS L lens. Exposure: 1/125 sec, f5.6 at ISO 6400.

 

Busselton Jetty by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The piles that support the Busselton Jetty form a vertical reef. More than 300 species of tropical and sub-tropical corals, sponges, fish and invertebrates live there. Canon EOS6d with Canon EF 24-70mm f4 IS L lens. Exposure: 1/125 sec, f5.6 at ISO 6400.

 

To get there you don’t have to walk, there is a solar-powered electric train, the Stocker Preston Express, which can carry up to 90 people. So now it is the case of a small train journey on a long pier.

 

Busselton Jetty by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Busselton Jetty is 1.81Km (1.12 miles) long and it has a train service that takes 90 passengers 1.7 Km to Underwater Observatory. Canon EOS6d with Canon EF 24-70mm f4 IS L lens. Exposure: 1/200 sec, f5.6 at ISO 100.

 

Busselton Jetty by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The Jetty Train on Busselton Jetty takes passengers on a 1.7 kilometre journey across the calm, clear waters of Geographe Bay. Canon EOS6d with Canon EF 24-70mm f4 lens. Exposure: 1/125 sec, f8 at ISO 100.

 

Shell Shocked

Pink Everlastings by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Found in abundance across Western Australia in spring are pink everlastings (Helipterum roseum). In many places they can form thick carpets of vibrant colour. York, Western Australia. Canon EOS6d with Canon EF 100mm f2.8 macro IS L lens. Exposure: 1/250th sec, f8, ISO 100.

 

I’ve written about going to York Golf Course to photograph flowers, particularly orchids, before  and today I’m going to do so again. This time was a little different. Firstly I was looking for pink everlasting daisies (Helipterum roseum) and secondly I went on a Saturday just after lunch instead of early on a weekday morning. It was a bad idea – a very bad idea. It was like something out of the movie Saving Private Ryan. The golf course was full. Here in the Wheatbelt when we say something was overcrowded it means there were three people, so to see roughly thirty people in one place was sensory over load – where had they all come from? To cap it all it was just after lunch the club bar been open and it seemed like everyone had been imbibing freely. Up to this point I thought it was the done thing to shout “Four” upon teeing off. Well at the York Club the word began with F and had four letters but it certainly wasn’t “Four” It was reminiscent of the opening scene from Four Weddings and a Funeral.

 

It went something like this. “Swish” went the sound of the club as the golfer made his swing, followed by a sharp “thwack”, followed almost immediately by a loud “F**k” as the ball was sliced into the rough. Unfortunately I was, along with the pink everlastings, in the rough. The late Spike Milligan once described an artillery barrage as being like Chinese water torture except with solids in his autobiography “Rommel?” “Gunner Who?”. Well the balls didn’t explode on impact, but they certainly had the effect of making me hit the deck and take cover. The only time I’ve moved faster was when the Rugby club president declared an open bar (my excuse being that I was an impoverished student at the time). After thirty minutes of cowering in the dirt wishing there was an air raid shelter nearby I decided to call it quits and I beat a hasty retreat back to the safety of the car. I did manage to get the two pictures of Everlastings shown on this page.

 

Pink Everlastings by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Pink everlastings (Helipterum roseum). In many places they can form thick carpets of vibrant colour. York, Western Australia. Canon EOS6d with a Canon EF 100mm f2.8 macro IS L lens. Exposure: 1/60 th sec, f16, ISO 100.

As I made my tactical withdrawal I hit the cover of some bushes where I found a small clump of green spider orchids (aka Fringed Mantis Orchid, Caladenia falcata) so I quickly stopped to grab a couple of photos.

 

 

Encircled by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Fringed Mantis Orchid or Green Spider Orchid, Caladenia falcata, York Golf Course, York, Western Australia. Canon EOS6d with EF 100mm f2.8 IS L macro lens. Exposure: 1/160 sec, f8, ISO 100.

All I can say is was a very traumatic experience. Every time I hear someone hitting a ball I develop a nervous twitch.

 

Clicking on a photo will take you through to my online gallery.

 

Hell Or High Water

Hell or high water is the new motto for the Avon Descent and was adopted because recent years have seen decreasing amounts of rainfall falling and competitors have had to carry their craft where there was insufficient water. This year, 2017 and the 45th occasion of the race, the water levels were high which meant potentially new records could be set. The Avon Descent was first held in 1973, and there were only forty-nine competitors. This year there were 370 competitors with many coming from interstate and overseas. In more ways than one it deserves the title the “world’s greatest white water event”. The 124 km or 77 mile two day event starts at Northam and finishes at the Riverside Garden in Bayswater with an over night stop at the Boral Campsite just outside Toodyay. For the majority of entrants the aim is just to complete the course, but for the elite athletes it is a chance of competing in a unique endurance race.

The beauty of this race is that you can pick out a few vantage points from a list put out by the race organisers on their website and follow the whole event documenting the whole story rather than just getting an isolated snap shot. In previous years I’d covered the race for magazines shooting stills and then writing the story. This year I had intended to cover the entire event from start to finish and it was to be first time I’d covered it shooting video. Having planned my weekend around the race it was time to check the maps and the approximate timings for each stage. For instance there was no point heading to the first stage after the start as I would not have had time to get there by car, park, and then walk along the river to find a good location to set up. Also I had to think about the weather conditions, because at some of the viewing points you are bussed in and that would mean I’d have to carry everything with me. As the forecast for the weekend was a cold start it was thermals, and fleece. he key was light layers that could be added or taken off as conditions permitted. Camera and lens choice was hard, and I found it difficult to make a decision. For the Friday shots I could work from the back of the car and it was all to be people shots around Northam and for the sake of mobility using either a monopod or a gimbal. In the end I decided to use the Sony A7r and with Olympus OM Zuiko lenses – the 20mm, 50mm and 135mm. This and the gimbal went in a belt pack. Saturday involved shooting at three sites and I wanted to shoot some time-lapse as well as video footage. So I chose the Olympus OMD EM 1 with 40-150mm f2.8 lens for the video work and the EM10 with 12-40mm f2.8 for the time-lapse. I couldn’t set up a tripod at the start as I was going to shoot on the swing bridge so I used a monopod for the video and for the time-lapse I clamped the Syrp Genie Mini to the bridge safety barrier with a Manfrotto super clamp. All this went into my photo back pack. Sunday was the biggest problem with no car access to Bells Rapids everything had to be carried. So I took the Canon EOS6d with 24-70mm, 70-200 and a x2 converter. I’d also need plenty of batteries and memory cards as there would be no nipping back to the car. I decided to carry all this in pouches on a belt as I needed to be able to scramble up some rocks to get a good vantage point. At Bells I mounted the camera on a tripod but at the finish line I shot just using a monopod.

The race happens on the first weekend of August every year. It kicked off on the Friday with the competitor registration at the Northam Swimming Pool and then their craft were taken down to the race marshalling area on the banks of the river. Late in afternoon and into the evening was the Avon River Festival with a huge fireworks display on the Avon River, stage shows featuring a variety of local talent, a family fun zone, rides for all the family, sideshow alley and roving entertainment, a community street parade, markets for avid shoppers, and food. On Saturday morning the event kicked off proper. As I arrived I could see hot air balloons drifting lazily above the river. The power craft were away quickly and smoothly and then it was the turn of the paddle craft. I was surprised to see that someone was competing for the first time on a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP). Barely had half the paddle craft left than the news came through that the first power craft had reached Toodyay. It was going to be a very fast race with little hope of getting shots of the power craft. I spent a total of an hour and half standing on the swing bridge -it is a wire suspension bridge that bounces a lot, the police constable standing next to me complained of feeling seasick from the constant motion. It didn’t effect me but it really made me glad that I had the in body stabilisation activated on the cameras. After the start I went to Williamson Weir stayed there for an hour and a half. The Weir is man-made and its concrete lip and rock wall are hazardous to boat and paddler alike so around half the competitors choose to portage around it. Thankfully the other half run it and you get the thrills and spills with plenty of encouragement from the watching crowd. Finishing up in Toodyay for the day is great. There is always a great vibe with a tremendous crowd and a party like atmosphere. When I got there the town was packed and in full on carnival mode. It took an age to find some parking and get down to the river. Here there was a team change over area, and along the riverside were lots of anxious looking paddlers all staring up river for any sign of their team mates. As the first canoes started to come round the corner and pass under the timing gate they got their first sight of their team mates and their faces would burst into a huge grin of relief. The spectators would burst into rapturous cheers as the fresh team-mate paddled away heading for the Boral Campsite that marked the halfway point and the end of day one.

I couldn’t face getting up at 4;30am in the dark and freezing cold to get to the start at Boral Camp for day two so I just headed out a bit later and went straight to Bells Rapids in Walyunga National Park. You have to leave the car at the nearby state equestrian centre and then you taken in by bus. From there it was a quick walk to what I call the media rock. It’s a nice big rock that juts out into the river which gives a good view of the competitors coming under the bridge and through the rapids. I got there just as the TV crews were claiming their spots and setting up. I squeezed onto the end closest to the bank and put my tripod up to mark my territory. When the press photographers arrived they gave us a filthy look, but as they were shooting hand-held they didn’t need as much space. A little while later a hopeful photo enthusiast asked if could join us on the rock, one of the guys I know from the papers said it was OK if he didn’t talk about equipment – his or ours – and if he did he’d get thrown in the river. He decided that he couldn’t not talk about kit and took himself off somewhere else. After a couple of hours I knew that I’d have to get my skates on if I was to get to the finish line.

The finish line is in Bayswater a suburb of Perth. A huge screen had been put up and there was a live commentary being given. I positioned myself by the finish line as I find that the images taken as the paddlers beach their boats and walk ashore tells a very powerful story. It does not seem to matter whether they are newbie’s in their first race or veterans each face has a similar look etched upon it. It is a mixture of pain from the sheer physical effort, relief from finishing, and disbelief that it is all over. Some will swear that they will never do it again, but most know that even as they hit the finish line that they will be back next year.

So now a week later, I’ve edited the 50Gb of footage and made a 7 minute clip. As I write this I’m thinking about how things went and what I would change if I were to do it again. Well to start with I wouldn’t bother with the Sony. It produces very nice images, but the screen is terrible. It is winter here and the days aren’t as bright as they can be, but the Sony’s rear LCD panel is virtually unusable. The other thing that puts me off is that the user interface isn’t very intuitive and so adjusting some settings in a hurry is a pain in the nethers. The OMD EM1 mk i is constantly a surprise when shooting video. The touch screen is a pleasure to use and the phase detect auto focus does very well. It is tempting to run off and get a mk ii for the 4K and the improved focusing. The Canon EOS 6d was the surprise, the autofocus is crap, but Technicolor’s CineStyle Profile and Canon’s superb lenses produce gorgeous images. All it needs is a flippy flappy touch screen and dual pixel auto focus and it would be perfect. “The 6d mk ii has that!” I hear you say, but (and there is always a but) the mk ii’s video compression is worse than the mk i. What Canon give they take away! There is always the EOS 80d. I might try to hire one for the next project I shoot. I wish I’d used the gimbal more instead of the monopod, accepting the fact that I couldn’t use it for the long lens shots. Sound could be a lot better – it is the aspect of video I always struggle with. I’m also beginning to think that I’ve out grown iMovie – a better editor would give me some more options. I’ve downloaded DaVinci Resolve to give that a whirl on my next project. In many ways I’m no different to the competitors in the race – I’m already starting to plan for next year!

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For*

Just Visiting by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Honey bee feeding off a Menzies Banksia. Mogumber, Western Australia. Canon EOS6d with Canon EF 100mm f2.8 IS L macro lens. Exposure: 1/1250 sec, f8, ISO 3200.

 

 

Looking Down by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Looking down into a Menzies Banksia flower. Mogumber, Western Australia. Canon EOS 6d with Canon EF 100mm f2.8 IS L macro lens. Exposure: 1/400 sec, f8 ISO 3200.

 

 

The other weekend I went on a road trip looking for the elusive, and some would say near mythical, Cleopatra Needles orchid (Thelymitra apiculata). After much searching I gave up and headed home after taking the above photos.

*Another rather obvious musical reference. It is of course U2’s song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” which was taken off of the album “The Joshua Tree”. The album used Irish folk and American roots music (in this case Gospel) to contrast American foreign policy with its wide open spaces. It was lauded by Rolling Stone magazine as one of rock’s greatest and along with the subsequent tour launched U2 as a stadium and arena band. It was also a turning point in another way in that many felt that the band and in particular Bono were pretentious and bombastic.