Brolga

Back to nature. Specifically, back to my recent visits to the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve on the edge of Canberra.

The Brolga (Grus rubicunda) is a member of the crane family, a tall slender bird found in wetlands in south-eastern Australia and New Guinea. Brolgas usually live in flocks and are well-known for their complex and highly ritualised mating dances. These may be performed by anywhere from one to a dozen or so male brolgas at a time. When many brolgas dance, they coordinate their movements and positions throughout the ritual.

Brolgas were once found natively in the Canberra region, but disappeared some time ago. A pair has been established in the wetlands area of the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, in the area known as The Sanctuary. This is an area bounded by a predator-proof fence and the brolgas have a fenced area within The Sanctuary. As the area is otherwise open – and certainly open to the sky for flighted birds such as the brolga – they are only semi-captive.

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Nara

On Saturday night the Nara Festival was held at the Nara Peace Garden, beside the lake in Canberra.

The Nara Festival celebrates Canberra’s relationship with its sister city of Nara, near Osaka in the Kansai region of Japan. The highlight of the Festival is the lighting of 2000 candles that form a kind of glowing stream through the middle of the garden. The Festival mirrors Nara’s own Tokae Festival.

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As well as the candles, there was a constantly changing display of different coloured lights. Very seriously coloured lights.

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Where there was a tree, there were coloured lights.

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There was entertainment, of course. During the time we were there, the stage was taken up by a man in a cowboy hat singing country and western songs, accompanied by a woman in traditional Japanese dress playing traditional Japanese instruments. A bit of guitar-shamisen fusion that just didn’t work for me (but seemed to go down pretty well with the crowd).

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There were a lot of people at the Nara Festival. It was a warm night and Canberrans love a free public event. Almost everyone had a camera of some type – from phones to tablets, big full-frame SLRs down to a tiny Pentax Q – and there was a lot of competition for the best spots.

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But in the end, the main point was the candles and the peaceful unity they represented.

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Phone, Flight and Feature

Hang around long enough on photography forums and you will come across more threads than you ever needed to read on the subject of whether phone cameras are as good as a ‘proper camera’. The arguments usually boil down to whether or not phone cameras are good enough and whether the benefits of always having the phone camera with you outweigh the disadvantages of lower image quality from the phone compared with something like a digital SLR. Of course, there are plenty of other spurious and ridiculous arguments along the way – photography forums are a great place to visit if you really feel the need to bicker and insult complete strangers on the other side of the planet.

From my perspective, I don’t expect my phone camera to ever beat my other cameras for image quality (leaving aside, perhaps, some of the really old digitals I still hang on to) but there are times when I want to take a photo and my phone is what I have. I don’t always go places expecting I might have a chance to take photos, but I go pretty much everywhere expecting I might need to use at least some functions of the smartphone.

Such was the case the other day when I had to do a quick half day trip to Melbourne for work. No time for photography on the ground, but it was a lovely clear day and I thought I would try some photos from the air. I did end up with some reflections from the window, which are annoying but unavoidable, and I had to add in some extra contrast on the computer, but being in a plane gives some pretty unique perspectives.

This is Lake Eildon, about 180 kilometres (a bit over 100 miles) north of Melbourne. The lake was formed by the construction of Eildon Dam and is a popular holiday destination. In the second photo you can see the big houseboats that are moored by the town of Eildon (there are other towns around the lake as well, even ones without Eildon in their names!).
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Outer suburbs of Melbourne

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Essendon Airport, located adjacent to Melbourne’s main domestic and sole international airport, Tullamarine.

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The freeway network, part of which connects Tullamarine Airport with the central business district.

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Suburban warehousing

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That evening, I left Melbourne as the sun was setting through gathering storm clouds.

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Leaving the recently redeveloped Canberra Airport terminal, I passed by a very neat vortex water feature I have enjoyed many times. Except this time I paused to take some photos of it – I had my phone camera with me, after all!

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A New Experience

Today I launched a new site – Majawi One (majawione.wordpress.com).

Majawi One is the companion site to this Majawi Images site.

Majawi Images was always meant to capture and present my work across a variety of subjects and styles – hence the catchphrase ‘Random images, random imaginings’. Over time, Majawi Images has come to focus mainly on the natural world – nature, birds, animals, flowers – with occasional wanderings in cityscapes (usually night time) and the like.

I also love dabbling in fine art-oriented monochrome images. I don’t know that they necessarily sit too well alongside the bulk of the Majawi Images content, most of which is colourful and even when it isn’t, it’s about things like black birds or white birds (or black and white birds). Monochrome birds in their natural environments sit comfortably among the other Majawi Images pictures, but arty, dark and moody abstracts don’t.

So, the only logical solution was another site. Majawi One. Dedicated to monochrome.

I hope you find something there you enjoy.

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The Robin and the Spider

I watched this Scarlet Robin sitting in a tree, checking the landscape for something yummy to eat. A quick swoop and it was back on the branch with this tasty morsel.

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Glimpses from the Garden

A few shots from a wander in my garden yesterday.

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Small things of Spring

Spring is in the air, making it a perfect time for some macro pictures.

For these pictures I used a Raynox DCR-250 macro conversion lens on a wonderful old Topcon 200mm lens. The Topcon is seriously well built in the good old fashioned way with lots of metal and weighs a heap. It is not the best balanced thing on a tiny Sony NEX body and hand holding it with the Raynox only adds to the challenge. This combination produces huge magnification. To give some idea of the magnification, the centre of this little Capeweed flower is maybe one centimetre across.

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The ant in this photo is one of those ubiquitous black garden ants (Ochetellus glaber) that get no bigger than 3 millimetres – small enough that I didn’t even notice it when I first started photographing these flowers. None of these photos are cropped, by the way.

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The other challenge is the incredibly small depth of field (the part of the image that is in focus) you get this close and with this magnification. This is a larger ant – maybe a centimetre. Still a very small creature. Notice how its nearest eye is pretty much in focus, but the plane of focus is lost halfway across its head – depth of field is only a millimetre or two.

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You can find some amazing macro images out there – including those that achieve good depth of field through focus stacking, where a series of images (sometimes 200 or more) are taken with tiny shifts of focus between them and then combined so all the in-focus slices are stacked on top of each other. I am not up to that level and you couldn’t do it anyway with most of these that have moving creatures or flowers swaying in the breeze. You need dead or otherwise immobilised insects or other controlled conditions for focus stacking.

So these are as they are – the miniscule area of focus becomes part of the challenge and the fascination.

Common dandelion flower and dandelion in seed.

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The flower of a eucalyptus tree.

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Three views of a tiny flower.

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Rust on a railing post.

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The remains of things past.

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I was hoping this little creature would pose for me, but it was on the move and not slowing down. I think it is a slater – one of the Isopoda, also known as soil bugs, pill bugs and wood lice. The Isopoda are crustaceans – related to crabs, shrimp, lobsters and so on, but fully adapted to terrestrial life.

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Thanks for looking :-)

Posted in Animals that are not birds, Flowers, Macro, Nature | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments