Good photographers make us look more closely at things we may never have considered before. They have an artist’s eye for subtle differences in light, colour, form and texture, and they’re able to frame their shots in a way that pose a question, or highlight a detail.
When I first bought a good camera, I thought I had all that was needed to capture the world around me. From the beginning, I was told I had ‘a good eye’ and this gave me the confidence to explore. I’ve even managed to produce some good photographs, but the more I learn about photography, the more I realise how much more I need to learn. Looking back on the photographs I’ve taken since we moved here, I can see the flaws in lighting and framing in some shots; that sometimes, the colours I saw before my eyes didn’t show up when I loaded the shots from the camera to the computer; that there were sometimes blurry focal points and angles which didn’t show off the feature I was trying to highlight.
With every Season that returns, I think I’ll have a second chance to photograph the same things, but it doesn’t always work out like that. The landscape changes with the amount of rainfall. This favours some plants, while others don’t flourish. Changes in vegetation and water levels affect the wildlife – some move on, while others move in.
Each day I walk around with my camera, the environment is different. Yesterday I photographed the only pink Common Heath plant I’ve found on the property, but the photographs were slightly out of focus. This is because I waited until feeding birds outside the house had moved on before venturing out with the camera. By the time I was photographing the Heath, the midday sun was reflecting off the surface of the plant, I couldn’t see it as sharply as I would have been able to in a softer light. When I went back this morning, the plant was gone. While it was probably eaten by a species that I also want to capture in an image, it means I have a blurry photograph of pink Common Heath to add to my plant species list. Achieving a balance between plants, animals and humans means accepting that things cannot always be perfect.
This morning we had thick fog and no wind. When I loaded the images from my camera to the computer, I saw the rich colours of moss, bark and leaves glowing beautifully back at me from the screen. The lack of wind meant there was no distortion through movement. The fog would have made a perfect background for the pink Heath, allowing the colours of the plant to show clearly. Yet even on a perfect photography day like today, there’s always the shot that was missed.
Walking along, looking at the moss, I took a different path than I usually do. Kangaroos, used to my usual movements, were hiding in the bracken. I came within two meters of them before they decided to flee. I was so focused on the moss, I didn’t even see them. By the time I raised my camera they were gone. When I think of all of those morning and evenings spent monitoring the grass outside the window to get a close-up shot of the kangaroos, this seems like such a wasted opportunity.
Sometimes it feels like the small “tweety birds” are taunting me. We have many species of these, which I can’t photograph. Their calls and whistles are all around me as I walk along, but there is never a bird in sight for more than a few fleeting seconds as they move from thickets of grass to branches hidden in a mass of leaves. While my camera has a fairly good zoom lens, I don’t have a telephoto lens. This means I need to be fairly close to the birds before I can hope to catch them in an image. When I was given a macro lens as a gift, I thought I would turn my attention to plants and fungi. You can guess what I’m about to say, I think. Every time I have the macro lens attached to the camera, the small birds seem to come out of hiding and almost dance in front of me. I think it is because I squat down to photograph the plants, and the birds want to see what I am doing.
I haven’t yet learned the art of changing lenses quickly enough. Perhaps I’ll have to master the illusion of pretending to use my macro lens when I’ve actually got the zoom settings in place!
Increasingly, I want to know more about our nocturnal mammals. That blurry photograph of a possum has made me wonder if we have Sugar Gliders, or Antechinus or Quolls. I want to know if the new joey emerges from the pouch in the safety of the dark. I’m even curious about feral animals – do we have foxes, rabbits and other pests here? So far I haven’t investigated night vision cameras, but I’ve been keeping an eye on a blog kept by Friends of Tarra Bulga National Park where they do have an infra-red camera set up. It’s fascinating to see how many creatures climb up and down a single tree overnight.
So stay with me. I will endeavor to take good photographs of the flora and fauna on our property for all of my posts – to show you the colour, the texture and the form – but sometimes I’ll fall short of the mark. When it comes down to it, I won’t frighten the birds or the kangaroos for a good shot. They live here too. On this blog, I want to document the species we have here, even if the photograph was taken at midday on a sunny day when the light reflects badly.