This nature photography lark is a lot harder than it looks. I follow a couple of YouTube channels from the UK that weekly show the host going out to some location to photograph and /or film a particular animal or plant. They always find it and always get good images. My experience is a bit different to that. I find that you can go out with all the best intentions in the world, but if nature isn’t playing ball then you don’t get anything. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve set out to look for the Cleopatra’s Needles Orchid (Thelymitra apiculata) driving 100’s of kilometres to find absolutely nothing. Take last weekend. We were down in the South West of Western Australia as my partner was again playing in a croquet tournament. So I’d researched what was about in terms of birds and orchids and set out to several locations with a specific list of what I wanted to photograph. The first stop was Malbup Creek Bird Hide where I wanted to see tawny frogmouths and white-bellied sea-eagles. Well I spent a nice morning at the hide without seeing them. I did get a nice shot of a shelduck and the local kangaroos were hamming it up for a photo.
The next stop was Locke Nature Reserve looking for common helmet and midge orchids. Well after a couple of hours of scrabbling around in the undergrowth fighting off the unwanted attentions of the local mosquitoes I’d found lots of them, but none in flower. There were some Splendid Fairywrens in the nearby bushes but they really didn’t want their picture taken and kept dancing out of the way every time I got close. On the walk back to the car a couple of Western Yellow Robins flew slightly ahead of me. They would stop and perch periodically and I was lucky enough to grab a few frames.
My last spot was Westbay in Augusta looking for scented autumn leek orchids. Now I’d seen them before at this location and knew where to go. They weren’t there. Not a one was to be seen. But I did find some autumn leek orchids – close enough so I photographed them. Funnily enough the autumn leek orchid has a much more pleasant scent than the scented variety which has decidedly unpleasant pong.
So there you have it another rewarding trip. I may not have found what I was looking for but I found other things and really enjoyed my time in the bush and that is what it is all about.
* This weeks musical reference is of course U2’s song I Still Haven’t Found. My favourite version is the one on 1988’s Rattle and Hum album.
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.
Sitting in the car this morning waiting for the rain stop I was thinking about it being New Year and what sort of resolution or revolution I could implement for 2015. Fittingly the radio station I was tuned into played “New Year’s Day” by U2 and then “All I Wanna Do” by Cheryl Crow**. I have reached something of a crossroads*** as a photographer (doing well so far first paragraph and already three song titles referenced) – the choices are do I still remain committed to printing and showing my work that way or do I just output for the web and e-books?
For me as a photographer and writer I want my ideas and images to be seen by as many people as possible and along with the process of creating that really floats my boat. If I just rely on exhibitions at best all I got was maybe a couple of hundred people look at the work. That’s a lot of effort and expense for for just so few hits (to use the web parlance). Having said that I really enjoy making prints – it was after all how I started in photography disappearing into the bathroom at night to process film and print. I found the process terribly exciting and rather magical. Fast forward a bit and an assignment that took me to Russia to shoot a bag full of Tri-X and when I got back home I processed the film and printed the proofs for the client. Later I got to see photos printed really big used at the launch of a human rights campaign. It was then that I realised the power of photography and the impact of a large print. I was hooked. Some twelve years later I got my first computer and started to play about with digital photography, desktop publishing and the internet. The world had shifted on its axis and now nearly twenty years later I’m doing stuff and reaching a what to me is a large very diverse audience. WordPress sent me an email the other day that gave a breakdown of the visitors to this blog, basically where they’re from and how they got here. While the majority of the readers are from the USA, England and Australia I get a surprising number from Russia, Central Asia, and the Latin American countries. The downside is that digital has made me a very lazy photographer and I’m loosing touch with what I’d call the craft of photography and I find that rather sad. I’ll explain that. It is sad because over the thirty years I’ve been pressing the shutter button I’ve accumulated an awful amount of knowledge – reciprocity failure, the Scheimpflug principle, push processing etc etc – and that hard-won knowledge is not being used anymore.
I’ve got no easy answers. Maybe I’ll continue with being both. Perhaps for most of the week I’ll be a modern all digital content creator, and then for a day or so get back to the craft and keep in touch with my roots. I could even shoot a roll or two of film (I found a container full of unexposed film in the freezer and an ever larger container of exposed film). The photos accompanying today’s post are really nothing to do with today’s subject and were made in an “old skool” way. Well old school circa 2005 and that is positively ancient in digital terms. They were made with my Canon EOS5d – the original 5d – and a canon 50mm f1.8 MkII (the plastic one not the original metal mount one). I have an embarrassingly large inventory of Canon bodies and lenses that sit around unused now I’ve gone to m4/3s. So my feelings of guilt compelled me to get a camera out of the cupboard and shoot some black and white photos just for the heck of it.
* New Year’s Day by U2. Another memorable concert at the Portsmouth Guildhall from the days when Bono was not considered an annoying twat.
** Sheryl Crow is an artist I’ve really got into, but an old friend of mine got the album when it first came out and every time I went round to her house she have this playing full-bore while she danced and sang along so I always associate it with her and that particular summer.
*** I first became aware of Elmore James after watching The Blues Brothers, and while I prefer the album “The Sky Is Crying” this track is an all time classic and has been covered by loads of people, but the original is still the best.