NEARLY HERE

Spring is nearly here and the Cherry Blossom trees on the small piece of parkland on the nearby main road gave me more than a mere hint of it’s coming last week.  This tiny avenue of Cherry Blossom trees will be really quite spectacular soon.

Their bare limbs are dotted with tiny pink buds with white petals peeping out.

There is a small oval of green grass that will become a grazing pasture for the Galahs soon too.  You may remember these images I made when I first moved to the western suburbs 11 months ago.  I’ve seen these colourful, (and very common), Galahs a few times now, but never in the vast numbers that I saw that 1st week after moving in early October 2016.

These 2 images were made with the old Sony 18-200mm lens that only felt like auto focusing intermittently (after its devastating fall in June 2015) and eventually got retired to its original box in the camera drawer.  I do miss it, but I kept getting blurred shots just when a new bird happened to fly by, and my usual patience got tested far too often and became more of a curse.

Weird day today.

Very chilly outdoors, but not a breath of wind at the moment.  How unusual to see all the leaves and flowers on my balcony potted herbs perfectly still.

It’s actually a bit creepy.  

Like the ‘calm before the storm’ and poor light for photography

I’m waiting for a good sunny day to go back to  Jawbone Conservation Reserve  in Williamstown on the western side of Port Phillip Bay – of which, Melbourne is located at the northern end.  I’ve found a bus route that goes right down to the car park by a small rocky outcrop between the ordinary sandy beach and the Conservation Area.  I caught the bus down there last Saturday and came back to my starting point without even getting off the bus.

I explained to the bus driver that I was just going for the ride to see where the bus went 🙂

There’s a crack in the sky at the top of the hill at the moment, but otherwise it looks very bleak outdoors indeed.

Will it, or won’t it (rain)?

I’ve been on the phone part of the morning and my internet service provider not only gave me a free ‘top-up’of internet allowance, but offered me a cheaper plan with 2 extra GBs.  We’ll see how 10GBs pans out (compared to the old 8GB plan which is no longer available – I was way past my 24 month plan and paying just month-to-month since it ended in March 2016).

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HOUSE SPARROWS (or how to waste 6 hours on a Sunday morning)

The temperature plummeted again today down to 12C (about 53F) and I woke up to rain, light hail and a brisk wind.  Light snow was forecast down to 600 metres so that would probably mean the low-lying range of hills overlooking the eastern suburbs of Melbourne might have white caps today.

Not a Sunday to go outdoors, so I made breakfast and sat down at my desk to read my emails.

I also plugged the Sony a6000 into the computer via the USB to re-charge it.

I’d filled an enormous plastic pot saucer with bird seed yesterday, but it was almost flooded over the rim and the House Sparrows sat on the rim looking hungrily at the seed faintly visible through the 2″ deep water.  

When a break in the light rain came, I stepped out in my PJ’s and tipped the worst of the water out and shivered more than a wee bit (before stepping back into my lounge), closing the sliding door and turning the wall heater on.

Then I preceded to waste 6 hours watching the Sparrows.  I did see one New Holland Honeyeater alight on the bare-limbed sapling where the bird’s nest had been, but it flew away before I could un-plug the USB cable, take the lens cap off and aim.  My other cameras and lenses were on the other side of the room and I didn’t want to miss too much of the action retrieving them, cleaning the lens and setting one/them up.

Since I had the Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ on continuous shooting which is 11 fps (frame per second), then I had the lengthy job of going through about 100 images which looked pretty much the same.  I don’t know who was fighting the most – the boys (dark head, grey cap) or the girls (plain), but it was highly entertaining.  There was one series of completely blurred shots too.  The autofocus must have been ‘on the blink’  🙂  (do you use that term in other countries when something doesn’t work? Or is that an Aussie phrase?).

Doesn’t take much to entertain me on a Sunday morning 🙂

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Now, I really, really, really should get dressed as the clock just struck 2.00pm.

And with only 7% of my 8GB monthly internet allowance left this morning, I’ll better get on the phone tomorrow and see if I’ve got one more FREE ‘top-up’ of internet allowance left this year.  I knew I had at least one FREE ‘top-up’ per annum, but quite by chance when I was chatting to my service provider last month, I discovered they, (TELSTRA), actually give me 3 FREEBIES per annum.

Keep your fingers crossed there’s 1 left, other wise I’ll be offline until the 9th September when my next billing month starts.

(and I’m afraid I can’t make any more iMovies as that’s what wasted my limited monthly internet allowance this month).

PACIFIC BLACK DUCK (Anas superciliosa)

My favourite shot of a Pacific Black Duck made at Ringwood Lake in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. A favourite, probably due to the natural background as much as the duck itself.

Apart from the beautiful pale salmon-pink Nankeen Night Heron, Pacific Black Ducks are the most photographed wild bird in my photo library.

These ducks are seen in all the public parks and nature reserves around Melbourne (and probably much further afield – which I can’t reach via public transport).  Here’s a selection of some of my favourite images – most are hand-held shots, not from a tripod.

AWWWW……THE BIRD’S NEST HAS DISAPPEARED

I was thrilled to report a bird’s nest in the tree next to my apartment balcony on Saturday the 19th.

I was out on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday so didn’t actually check it on those days.

Yesterday, Wednesday, it rained most of the day.  In fact at once stage, the rain was bouncing off the ground so heavily, it almost looked like hail and the temperature dropped considerably.

So I didn’t check the nest yesterday either.  When I saw a bird in the tree this morning and retrieved my camera off the kitchen bench and came back, the bird was gone and that’s when I realised………so was the nest.

I went outdoors to double-check the ground at the base of the tree and all around.  Definitely gone.

How disappointing.

I was so looking forward to having new avian neighbours.

I saw plenty of bird life on my walk along the western side of the Maribyrnong River on Tuesday, but too far away to photograph.  I rarely walk on that side of the river as the surrounding landscaping between the townhouses and river is a little more formal  (than the two long islands in the middle of the river where I usually walk, as shown on the map at left).

I was intending to do the walk to the Maribyrnong Wetlands pond every day this week (with a bus up the 2 steep hills and along the main road home, shown on the left), but yesterday was too wet to go outdoors at all.

After Sunday’s rather slow and fatiguing walk at the Jawbone Conservation Reserve in Williamstown, I figure I need to get my fitness level back up again after much of this past Winter confined indoors.

For the first time in the last 7 years of nature walks and Photography, I genuinely felt unfit last Sunday.  I may have to walk very slowly due to my (inherited) heart condition of Obstructive HCM and Fibromyalgia/CFS, but I usually warm up slowly for the first 10 minutes of a walk and end up covering a fair bit of ground, stopping to look around for birds or other nature subjects (which gives me a breather to bring my heart rate back down) every now & then.

Only the Pacific Black Ducks on the Maribyrnong Wetlands pond were close enough to get a decent shot with the Sony a6000 on Tuesday.  Until the weather improves again, I’ll only be carrying this smaller, lighter ‘mirrorless’ camera on my walks.  It’s easier to carry in a waterproof bag, than all my Canon DSLR gear.

WATTLE (Acacia)

Wattle (Acacia) is in bloom everywhere at the moment and while there are 1350 species world-wide, at least 1000 varieties are indigenous to Australia.  No wonder the Golden Wattle is Australia’s national flower.

There are also pale cream flowering  varieties like the one below which was located close to the pond in Pipemakers Park.

On the way to, and from, Pipemakers Park on Monday, I passed many trees and several varieties.  I left home after a morning of rain showers so it was still overcast walking along the river path (which meant I should have changed the White Balance on my camera, but completely forgot).  On the way home, I took the shortcut through the picnic area which leads directly to the western path (and then gravel access road), around Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve.

On the way home, the sun was out, but the nature reserve had pockets of deep shade which form as the sun goes down behind the hill (on which my apartment block is built). So while I had plenty of time, now that the shortest day of Winter is past, the light can fade very quickly after about 5.00pm.

I was reading up a little on Wattle as I’m embarrassed to say I know very little about it, except it makes many people sneeze and although I don’t usually get too close to the flowers, it can make my nose a bit itchy.  I was reading an article, some of which I’ve reprinted below, which indicated it can be eaten – I never knew that.  But then, I know a lot more about (mainly) English herbs, than indigenous plants in my own country, Australia.

All parts of various Acacia species have been or are used by people for one purpose or another.

The seeds from some specific Acacia species provide a valuable food source. Mostly the seeds are ground into a flour and cooked like damper although some are eaten raw or made into a porridge. The gum from some species is also edible.

Various extracts from the bark and the leaves or phyllodes have been and continue to be used by Australian Aborigines for a wide variety of medicinal purposes such as relieving toothache or colds or applying to wounds and burns. Green leafy branches of some species may be used to ‘smoke’ someone who is suffering from a general sickness.

The wood of various species has been used to make clubs, spears, boomerangs and shields. Some species, such as Acacia melanoxylon (Blackwood), are used to make fine furniture.

Tannin has been extracted from the bark of a number of species for use in tanning including Acacia dealbata (Silver Wattle), A. mearnsii (Black Wattle) and A. pycnantha (Golden Wattle).

Boomerang made from the wood of Acacia melanoxylon
A boomerang made
from the wood of
Acacia melanoxylon

Note: for those new to my Nature Blog, I currently live in a large modern apartment block cut into a hillside overlooking Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and the Maribyrnong River in the western suburbs of Melbourne.  The building is located about 100 feet from the rim of the nature reserve and about 6-7 minutes walk to the river………if you’re a brisk walker…….I’m not.  

I also have a Black & White blog located here (which is mainly street photography and not used so often these days) and a Sunset/Sunrise blog located here (which is mainly about the sunsets from my previous 3rd floor apartment to the north-east side of Melbourne).  This sunrise/sunset/cloud formation blog is not going to last much longer as I don’t see the sunsets as much in this current hillside location, despite my apartment balcony facing west.

COMMON MALLOW? – FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE

I walked over to Pipemakers Park on Monday looking for Spring.

On the way down to the river path (for I was going the long way round via the river), I spied this glorious patch of colour on the fence between Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and the river walking/cycling path.  A Mallow perhaps?  And while Frogs Hollow is still looking rather Wintery, this patch of colour looked so cheerful I was tempted to pluck a few cuttings off and plant them all the way along the fence.  But I know the Council in charge of the area are cutting out all non-indigenous trees, so I daresay they would not appreciate me spreading this non-indigenous flower.

Now that the weather is starting to improve a bit, I’ve been trying to get out for a walk more often.

I was rather shocked to find myself more breathless and fatigued than usual when down at Jawbone Conservation Reserve last Sunday.  That was the first time since I took up Photography 7 years ago that I actually felt really unfit.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT!

I planted this pink Argyranthemum in a pot on my balcony on the 4th November 2016 (according to the dates on my fist photo) and it has flowered non-stop through the extreme heat of Melbourne’s Summer and the wild winds of recent Winter weekends – some gale force.

I’ve been dead-heading, (cutting off the wilted or dead flowers), continuously and today the 21st August, close to Spring 2017, it is still flowering.

I’ve never grown this brilliant pink daisy before.  It this a record?  Or is this normal?

I don’t know.

I’ve just moved it closer to the lounge window so there’s a space to observe the bird’s nest (I spotted the other day) from my desk chair.

SOMEWHERE NEW – JAWBONE CONSERVATION RESERVE

While its back to rain, very chilly weather and overcast Winter skies today, yesterday was a different matter entirely.

The weather was superb – sunny and almost windless.  I’d been looking at Jawbone Conservationa Reserve in Williamstown (about 8 kms down the western side of Port Phillip Bay from Melbourne city) on the internet for a few weeks trying to work out the best way to get there via public transport, but after getting up late (due to a restless night with hip and neck pain), I decided to just call a taxi – the height of extravagance for me.  Being a Sunday and with minimal traffic on the road, the taxi ride took about 25 minutes.  The Internet had said 23 minutes via car, so I knew it wasn’t that far from home.

Tram/bus, then train and about a 20 minutes walk to the area might have been 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on connection times.  For the umpteenth time in the last 7 years I wished I still had a car and could drive.

I think my Taxi driver must have thought I was mad….. getting a taxi…..to go for a walk 🙂  But as always in the life of a chronic pain sufferer, you learn to let go of all your preconceived ideas of what seems rational or sensible.  You learn to concentrate of what you can do, not on what you can’t.   You learn to live your life Mindfully, living each day as it comes.

If its a bad pain day, you just call a taxi 🙂 (but my whole month’s taxi budget went in one day yesterday……….. and it was worth every cent).

Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve consists of an impressive 50 hectares of wetlands, open grasslands, a saltmarsh and a mangrove conservation area, providing an ideal haven for up to 120 bird species that frequent the area. Equipped with beautifully laid out boardwalks and bird hides, this reserve is a must for any budding naturalist or bird enthusiast.”

The Shot of the Day. Another White-face Heron.
I followed this second White-faced Heron for quite a while. I was only about 30 feet away away on the wire fenced walking path but I couldn’t see what was making it’s neck vibrate so much. It was rather weird to watch.
This may be hard to see, but the Heron moved so quickly and picked up a goanna to eat. I almost missed the shot.  Obviously the ‘vibrating’ neck action happened each time it swallowed a goanna or other tiny critter as it slid down its gullet.

Yesterday, I spent just a couple of hours exploring the small area of Jawbone Arboretum and for the first time in the last 7 years of my Photography Hobby I was so busy looking around me, I took few photos.  By the end of that time I was limping and struggling to hold my heavy telephoto lens so gave up and mostly used my main Canon DSLR with a 17-50mm lens.  I had all 3 cameras and lenses in a wheeled trolley (which I normally use for shopping), but which has become my constant companion this year.   It carries far more than I could carry over my shoulders and fragile spine.

And the 17-50mm lens was what was in my hand when I raised it high and shot my first focused image of birds flying in the sky.  I’ve never been able to capture birds in flight (except seagulls gliding slowly in to land).  I know it’s impossible to identify the birds as they were so far away, but I had to include this shot to prove I’d finally done it.  I missed at least half a dozen shots of flying birds, including a White-faced Heron flying towards me when I had the 150-500mm lens in my hands.  I just couldn’t hold that heavy lens steady yesterday.

I’ll go back in the summer when the days are longer and take more photos to share with you.  This whole 50 hectare site needs several hours and several visits to explore more thoroughly. 

Perhaps I will see some of the 120 bird species that are supposed to inhabit this area.  I only saw Herons, Ducks, Eurasian Coots, Black swans, Dusky Moorhens from a long distance away.  The small birds I saw yesterday were too far away to identify and photograph and I didn’t have the energy to walk every path in the Arboretum.

There’s Jawbone Marine Sanctuary on the seaward side if you’re a scuba diver or strong swimmer.

A NEW DEVELOPMENT – Part 2

A light just switched on in my brain after dinner tonight.  I had one of those Ahaaaah moments.

I made a rather faded image of a White-plumed Honeyeater (Lichenostomus penicillatus) through the (dirty) lounge window on the 2nd August.  It was the first time I’d ever seen this bird on the tree in front of my apartment balcony and I remember being rather thrilled at the time.  I’d spotted these Honeyeaters many times high up in the trees down by the Maribyrnong River near my home, but had been unsuccessful in capturing a good shot.

Here’s a repeat of that early August shot …

The Honeyeater was behind the main branch of the bare-limbed young tree.  And there was definitely no nest on the 2nd August.  I’m pretty observant when it comes to the various bird life around my apartment balcony, as I spend so many hours watching the birds from my desk.  The distance is about 7-8 feet at most.

In one of the ‘nest’ images I made today, it shows the nest just to the right of the main trunk (shown in the image above).

I do believe the nest must have been made in the last couple of weeks!

I wonder if it’s a White-plumed Honeyeater nest (in anticipation of new Spring leaves to hide it in a few weeks) ?

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’ll keep you posted on any new developments.

Here’s a few more possibilities photographed from my desk or down in Frogs Hollow a few weeks ago.  Sorry the birds aren’t close in Frogs Hollow, but these little wild birds are skittish and I can’t get close enough to give you a decent image when they’re feeding on the low-lying grass field in Frogs Hollow.  The House Sparrows are getting more used to my presence though.

 

A NEW DEVELOPMENT…….

It’s Saturday in Melbourne and the rain/hail has cleared from the sky and the sun has come out.

The birds are tweeting in their very best voices to entice me outdoors.  I opened the balcony sliding door and stepped out into a puddle of water blanketing the tiles.

I wanted to check the sky and…… see if the small deciduous tree in front of my balcony had any new buds yet.

It did……..but very tiny and hard to see.

Then I spotted it.

A tiny nest about 3″ across.

I will have to rearrange the potted plants on my balcony so that the nest is visible from my desk chair.

I’ll keep you posted if there are any new residents.

I will be thrilled if I get new neighbours.

TOMORROW LOOKS PROMISING……….

Dare I get my hopes up that tomorrow will be a lovely day for Photography?

Will Melbourne’s weather forecast be right for a change?

Sunday 20 August

Summary
Min 4
Max 14
Partly cloudy.
Possible rainfall: 0 mm
Chance of any rain: 20%

Melbourne area

Partly cloudy. Areas of morning frost. Slight (20%) chance of a shower in the evening. Light winds.

 

Light winds is one of the descriptions I’m always looking for (in Photography).  Partly cloudy is far more interesting than a clear blue sky for Photography.

So where shall I go tomorrow?  (it feels like I’ve been pretty much indoors for the whole of Winter this year, partly the weather, but partly these #$@! severe headaches and neck pain – which are now permanent, but I’ve got plenty of prescription painkillers these days in the wake of all those MRIs I had.  They only show one new slipped disc in my neck, to match the 6 slipped discs in my lower back.  Methinks I may have to give up the heavy 150-500mm lens soon).

St Kilda Beach or Pier?

or somewhere local?

Newell’s Paddock Wetlands & Conservation Reserve?

Brighton Beach ?

It’s a long way off now that I’ve moved to the western suburbs, but actually only 2 buses, or a tram and a long bus trip?  But it’s Sunday tomorrow and the buses don’t run as often.

The Royal Botanic Gardens?

Queens Park, Moonee Ponds?  That’s only a tram ride to the end of the line and a 5 minute walk to the entrance.

Or shall I renew my Zoo Membership and go to the Great Aviary for some Bird Photography practice?  Despite lack of direct route via public transport, it IS only about 3-4 kms away as the crow flies.

Or shall I go somewhere new?

Guess!

PS.  It’s only 10.45am and the hail and heavy rain has just started (it’s Saturday morning as I type this post).

THIS TIME LAST YEAR…….

From the archives – 15th August 2016.

After moaning about the wild and windy weather lately, I thought to check out  what I was doing this time last year.

(well, 15th August, 2016 was close enough).

It appears I was in the Royal Botanic Gardens doing some flower photography.  The dark background suggests it was on a dark overcast  Winter day, but it didn’t stop these lovely pink flowers shining.  I’ve had a ‘senior moment‘ and can’t remember what they’re called 🙂    Uhmmmm…..Japonica….Flowering Quince?).  At least I remember where I made the image.  It was next to a blue rubbish bin, 50 metres up the path from the Rose Pavilion, which was located on the hillside above the large Ornamental Lake).

Did I ever mention that I’ve walked around and through the Royal Botanic Gardens between 8-10,000 times in my adult life.  I even walked to/from my office on the southern perimeter of the RBG for some 16 1/2 years.  It’s a beautiful part of Melbourne and well worth a visit.

The Royal Botanic Gardens I mean, not my old office 🙂

WILD & WINDY WEATHER

Image made from my apartment balcony a couple of weeks ago.

It’s been wild and windy weather in Melbourne and its surrounding suburbs on and off for several weeks now.

The laneway leading down the small steep hill to my apartment block acts a bit like a wind tunnel, so it seems to be more like gale force on my west-facing balcony.  Over the weekend and yesterday, I had to end up closing all my windows, (and door to the balcony), as the wind had blown in loose soil and bark mulch from my potted herbs.

Quite weird having to vacuum a layer of soil off my bedroom carpet near the window and clean all the bark off a chest of drawers (near that same window).  I only had the windows open about an inch (to give you some idea of the strength of the wind).  The lounge sliding door was only open about 1/2″  to let in some fresh air.  These modern apartment blocks leave a lot to be desired in terms of fresh air, especially when they’re as tiny as mine.  I’m missing my nature walks at the moment.  There have been some sunny afternoons but I’ve had commitments to keep me at home (like the washing machine repair man and the supermarket home delivery service).

When it rains, I have to shut the windows completely as they are the louvered kind and the rain comes straight in from the west.

Strangely enough. despite the weather bureau predictions, we seem to have had little rain.  Maybe the best of the rain has been in the eastern and southern suburbs, although the skies in the west, where I live, have been dark and ominous enough.   I guess it’s rained overnight as my balcony tiles were wet, but I’ve had to start hand watering the potted plants.  I have noticed the sage and lemon thyme, which I cut down low at the start of winter, has lots of lovely green leaves again, so the soil temperature must be warming up at least (now that Spring is not far off).

To me, nothing signifies climate change, (and how dry Melbourne’s winter has been this year), when I have to hand water my potted plants in the last month of Winter.

Perhaps we’ll have record-breaking Spring rains like we had in 2016?

The wind whistling through my apartment block sounds just like an Arctic Storm and I always wonder what makes such a loud sound in a modern building like this one.  Same thing happened in my previous modern apartment block.  And while there has been the occasional colour in the sky at dusk, no stunning sunset images to share with you either.

 

This morning, I suddenly noticed gaps in the plants I’m growing near the balcony rail to give some privacy – I’m quite close to the footpath and road, despite being on the first floor of this building.

I was shocked to see 2 of my heaviest pots blown over.  I assume the wind must have dried the soil out so much they’ve become lighter overnight?

I quickly righted them and scooped the spilt soil back in, but not much point sweeping all the other scattered bark mulch and soil ( with the wind so strong during the day).  I gave them a generous watering to make the pots heavier.

Roll on Spring and some windless days…………………..please 🙂

 

AUTUMN – The Dandenong Ranges (test run #2 with iMovie)

I’m like a toddler with a new toy – can’t leave iMovie alone now I’ve worked out how to use it over the weekend, but I really need to go out and shoot some new images/subject matter for Test Run #3.

Here’s test run #2……….made after I arrived home from some errands in the city centre this afternoon.

I was so engrossed in re-arranging some old images to try and fit the music I chose for this test run, I nearly forgot to cook dinner tonight 🙂

(I can’t work out why some images are static and some fade.  Hmmmmm.  Back to ‘the drawing board’.  I’ll work it out in the end.  This is another ‘hit’ or ‘miss’ effort as I can’t seem to alter the speed or change the transition of each image the way I would like.  Well, at least I’ve successfully passed the Beginner’s Class in iMovie). 

Enjoy……..and I recommend you switch to FULL SCREEN (located down in the bottom right hand corner of the slide show screen)

 

BRIGHTON BEACH (or how I made my first slideshow using iMovie)

Yesterday was a momentous day.

I wanted to make another YouTube, (or slide show), with sound.

With the Picasa software used in the past no longer on my computer, I discovered it was no longer available or supported on the internet either.  So a couple of days ago I started searching for a new piece of editing software that would do the same thing.

And, to make the task easier, I decided on a simple slide show based on my Brighton Beach images.  Note: I’ve use these images before to make a Picasa software slide show with a standard piece of music which was available on Picasa at that time.

Brighton Beach is in a bayside suburb not too far from Melbourne city (by bus, train or car), known for its iconic colourful bathing boxes. These bathing boxes, or storage sheds, can only be owned by local residents and on the rare occasion one is sold, such as in January 2016, the auction resulted in the astonishing figure of Aust$285,000.  Just imagine a painted shed being sold for that gigantic sum. No land.  Just a SHED!  Just as well Brighton is an affluent suburb.  I’ve uploaded some sample shots to paint a picture of the beach I’m working with for this slide show.

Finally, Friday night, I decided just to upload iMovie onto my Mac and give it a try.  It took about 8 hours to download and I had to leave the computer on all night.  It wiped out approximately 2.2GB (which I didn’t take in when I read the instructions) so with only an 8GB monthly internet package, I’m going to run out of internet this month (unless I stay off the computer for most of the next week or two.

Anyway, yesterday morning, at the end of the download, I opened iMovie and stared intently at the Black space with the various options at the top of the screen……..I stared blankly for a fair while in fact.  My brain was going around in circles in Imagination & Creative mode i.e. the Right side of the Brain was firing.

I thought it pointless to read, or watch, a tutorial on how to make a movie or slide show using iMovie, as by the time the tutorial was over I would have forgotten half of what it said :).

Yesterday I stared at the black screen for some time after the overnight upload.  I nearly went into one of my regular Meditations with the focus on the words ‘black screen’ repeated over and over in my brain.  I snapped out of that when I realised half the day was gone and I was still in my PJs…………and the screen was still black.

iMovie has dozens, (if not hundreds?), of music clips, so I just chose the sound of waves crashing for this first test exercise.  Fortunately I’m still very good at observing small details visually, so realised very quickly if I took images from several beach visits, the sky might be bright blue in some shots and overcast on others.  One cold Autumn day I was down at Brighton Beach and it was pretty much deserted.    On another, the broad stretch of soft sand at low tide was crowded (it being sunny and a weekend).   So I couldn’t use too many images showing the sandy section of the beach or the sky colour.

One day the waves were merely lapping at the fine seaweed and shells sprinkled haphazardly across the sand high tide line.  Another day, the waves were crashing with high spray and greater ferocity.  So choosing to make a slide show from several beach visits was not without some challenges yesterday.   But, I do have a certain amount of patience and tenacity (as shown in my working life, as much as in my current bird and nature photography hobby).

Towards the end of my initial test slide show, I placed the pale sky and images made facing into the sun (giving silhouettes), to suggest to the viewer the sun, was getting low in the sky.  It wasn’t late in the day, so this was merely an illusion.

Then I couldn’t work out why it didn’t upload to my YouTube channel.

This morning I finally noticed that I hadn’t given it enough time to upload (to YouTube).  Duhhh!

It took a few minutes and then I decided to share my test sample of using the Apple Mac’s iMovie software with you.

So here ’tis.

My very first slide show using iMovie.  Remember I’m only a beginner and this was my first attempt.  But I thought it was pretty good for a first attempt.

Enjoy………………….and yes, you are excused if the sound of crashing waves gets too monotonous and you turn the sound off 🙂

FROM THE ARCHIVES………………..A YOUTUBE

Many moons ago, when I was more au fait with my computer, had more ‘grey matter’ in my brain and had Picasa editing software installed, I made 4 YouTubes from a range of early photos.  I’d forgotten all about them until yesterday and thought to share one of them today.  Amateurish they might be, but I seem to remember they were great fun to play around with.  These were made when I had only one blog, Victoria A Photography (now deleted).

I split into 2 new blogs, A Black & White blog under my name Vicki A Alford – Photographer  (which I don’t use often) and this current Nature blog you’re now reading, Living with Nature.

Living with Nature could have been titled A walk with my camera as that is what it is.  Just images I make when out walking (for fresh air and exercise).  These days I never go to a particular place to photograph a sunset.  Any sunset shot is merely what I happen to see at the end of a walk, or from my apartment balcony.  There’s a professional photographer called Vicki Alford in Melbourne, so I inserted the first letter of my middle name to differentiate between the 2 of us.

Back in those days, I dabbled in Food Photography as well.

Food Photography became rather expensive as I had to keep buying so many different ingredients for recipes (to photograph).  There were many times when I ate the food/recipe before I’d decided on the final image to share, as it looked so yummy.  It not only looked yummy, it was delicious as I used to be a good cook.  This clip opens with the image which was a finalist in the Michaels Camera Store monthly contest – “Food” – a few years ago –  Caponata Siciliana – a sweet/sour Bruschetta dish of which I am extraordinarily fond.  I made about 50 images and then, dissatisfied with the results, ate the food.  The next day I went out and bought all the ingredients again, made many more images and ended up choosing the shot below.

Michaels Camera Store in Melbourne is my ‘go to’ shop for anything Photographic and the assistants have been more than generous with their time and advice.

In fact, I spent months trying out all the long telephoto lenses, (including the Canon L series expensive lenses I couldn’t possibly afford), before I chose the Sigma 150-500mm f5.0-6.3 lens for my bird photography.  Due to my poor memory, I used to visit the store regularly with queries, both technical and lens related.  No question was EVER too trivial or silly for these highly knowledgeable sales assistants – all of whom are very experienced photographers themselves.  I believe some of them are professional photographers who work in the store part-tome to supplement their income.

I visit less often now that I live further away from Melbourne’s city centre.

Hope you enjoy the variety of images in this clip……

IT WAS THE WASHING MACHINE THAT DID IT !

The washing machine broke down last weekend and it was the washing machine’s fault that I had to get up early this morning.

When the service centre booked me in for today’s service/repair visit I didn’t flinch or protest as the laundry was piling up and I don’t have many clothes these days.

But when the service/repair man rang last night to schedule a 7.30am time-slot on a forecast of a perfect sunny winter day, I shuddered.    It was only when I was eating breakfast that I saw the golden light reflecting off the townhouse windows opposite my balcony that I realised I should have been outside the back gate photographing the sunrise.  I was too late when I went downstairs and out the car park entrance.  The sun had already risen and was doing it’s very best to put a golden spotlight on the landscape.

What a shame I don’t live on the eastern side of the building I thought.   I would have seen the prospect of a sunrise before I’d even dressed for the day.   I would probably have left the camera set up on a tripod with polished lens and settings just perfect for a sharply focused image from my lounge room window.

I looked more to the south and saw the sky had faded into buttermilk (from its brilliant golden hue).  I forgot to check the Sony’s settings and just fired off a few shots regardless (as I was still half asleep).  This resulted in several dirty spots left over from trying to photograph the sky on a recent rainy day.  I had a bit of spot erasing to do before I could upload the images into this post.  To be honest the silhouettes weren’t that sharp in focus either.  I must have been shivering a bit while holding the camera in front of my glasses.

Far into the distance a solitary hot air balloon drifted across the winter sky (and I can now see I missed erasing the spots on the left hand side of this image 🙂 ).

It reminded me of the many dawn skies I had seen from the 3rd floor balcony of my previous apartment on the north-east side of Melbourne.  Back then, it was the sound of Doves on my balcony fence rail that often woke me early in the morning and I chanced upon the sight of such beautiful dawns they took my breath away.  Not only that, the hot air balloons hovered right overhead in that home location.

Here’s a few shots from the archives to refresh long-time follower’s memories.

 

 

 

 

Dawn on a perfect winter day in 2016.

 

I noticed this morning there were small birds everywhere on the trees in front of my current apartment  balcony and despite chirping their very best, the sound would never have awoken me these days, as I haven’t woken at dawn in the 11 months I’ve now lived in this western suburb of Melbourne.

Shame about that as the recent foggy mornings would have cast a ghostly mist in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and over the Maribyrnong River just 5 minutes walk down the hill from my current back door and made for some lovely atmospheric images.

Needless to say, after the repair man had left for his next scheduled job, I started nodding off trying to download the images I hurriedly made earlier and eventually, decided to go back to bed as I’d had an unsettled night with only a few hours sleep.

I awoke at midday and after a quick lunch I’ve missed the best part of this Winter’s perfect day no. 3.

Time to set off on a walk in the nearby river path as it’s too late to go further afield (as I’d originally planned last night).

EVERY CLOUD HAS A SILVER LINING……

The sky went a bit dark and gloomy and then came the hail.

But that was 30 minutes ago.

I couldn’t help but be drawn out on to my apartment’s balcony to check out the new sky (but it was, and still is, very cold).

 

PS I think I’ve ‘losing the plot’ as we say in Australia.  I thought I posted this image last night and this morning, I found it still in draft form 🙂

SPRING SUNSET

From the archives – 21st September 2016

It’s been cold, extremely windy and VERY wintery weather in recent days………..just when I thought Winter was coming to an end and Spring might be soon appearing on the horizon.

But still…….not much in the way of real heavy soaking rain this past winter in Melbourne.

Maybe we’ll have record-breaking Spring rain like we had last year?

Who knows.

In the meantime, I’m in hibernation mode and my cameras are gathering dust.

THE ELUSIVE WHITE-PLUMED HONEYEATER (Lichenostomus penicillatus)

One of the most magical times of day around my area is between 3.30pm and 4.30pm in the afternoon.

Especially in winter when the sun reflects off the clouds like a spotlight.  My side of the river starts to fall into a deep mysterious shade quite early, due to the overlooking cliff-top or hill (depending on where you’re standing).

I plan my walks over to the nearby Pipemakers Park so that I walk home via the pond just as the sun starts to drop low in the winter sky.

Part of Pipemaker’s Park garden ruins back in Autumn which reflects the time of afternoon I visit the area.
It looks more like this in winter and quite stark and more sombre.

It can be hard to see anything much happening at the pond as the brilliant sunlight shines directly into your eyes and the scrubby undergrowth is too thick to walk around to the sides, or back of the pond.  I usually stand in the shade of a large tree and surreptitiously, very slowly, peep around the tree trunk to attempt a photo.  I usually take a photo with my right hand with my left hand shading my brow & eyes, so I can see.

A variety of birds take turns diving into the shiny, murky-looking water surface (throwing a shower of sparkling droplets into the air) and then fly back up to the tall water reeds (or a nearby tree), shaking their feathers very fast to discard the excess water weight.  They make this flight over and over continuously.

The splash they make as they hit the water looks like dozens of diamonds being thrown into the air.  It’s hard to describe this magical scene without some photos, but I’ve only managed to take 2-3 images showing the light, never the fast-flying small birds………until last Monday.

I stood enchanted for about 20 minutes watching what looked like a White-plumed Honeyeater.

I’ve just re-viewed Monday afternoon’s images and I think the photo below might be good enough for you to see it.  It’s a small plain honeyeater with underparts a pale olive-green.  The face is a bit more yellowish and it’s underparts a pale yellowish grey-buff, but the black-bordered long white neck-plume clinches the identification.   You can’t see the white-neck plume in this image very well, so you’ll just have to believe me when I have 100% identified this elusive bird, that I saw this particular day.

(note: they’re a common bird in the area, I just can’t manage to photograph them up in high trees).

If you look carefully in the centre of the frame you can just barely see the bird as it’s the same colour as most of the surrounding leaves.

I’ve cropped the image a wee bit in the next shot.

In the centre of the frame below you can see it backlit. It was moving fast so the bird is a wee bit blurred.

And this poorer shot below shows the bird flicking the droplets of water off.  Again, blurred, (or soft in focus), due to the speed of movement.  I can’t really raise the ISO over 800 on my cameras without getting too much ‘noise’ or grainyness in the image in this type of situation and it’s hard to catch the bird within the frame as it flies up and down from the water so quickly.

I could watch these tiny birds for hours, but the light disappears quickly (and suddenly) like a light globe being turned off behind the high western cliff-top, so not a place to be stuck in without a torch I guess.  I try to leave before this happens.  In Summer, the daylight hours are longer of course.

Capturing these small birds such as the White-plumed Honeyeater, the Red Wattlebird and Reed Warblers in flight, or hitting the water surface, is my current challenge and I’ve always enjoyed a challenge in bird photography (as much as in my working life).

Of course photographing the White-faced Heron in this pond is much easier as it often stands still.

WISHING FOR A SUNNY DAY AT THE BEACH

Melbourne Weather Forecast – Thursday 3rd August, 2017 – cold, fog and a 90% chance of rain.

Hmmmm……

We’d better have some re-runs from the archives again……and I feel like beach images on this chilly Winter Day – (with apologies to the followers who’ve seen them all before).

 

 

 

 

PURPLE CORAL PEA (Hardenbergia violacea)

This week I noticed that the Purple Coral Pea is in bloom.

I had already spotted several low-growing bushes opposite my apartment block, but the local council has planted it in various locations between new apartment blocks at the top of my laneway’s steep hill.

I bent over and fired off a few shots on the walk home from the local chemist/pharmacy on Monday.   As the bright sunlight was too harsh, I put my body between the flowers and the sun to create a shadow and the flowers showed up much better.  I only had my Sony ‘mirrorless’ with the 55-210 lens in my shopping bag, but I’ll try and go back with my Canon DSLR and my new(ish) 17-50mm f2.8 lens which will take a much closer and better shot.  I love that DSLR lens, but when I’m in a hurry, I usually grab my lightweight Sony ‘mirrorless’ a6000 on the way out the front door, not a heavy DSLR.

This lovely pea is a vigorous climber growing up to 20 feet so Wikipedia says, but I’ve only seen it growing low on the ground to about 20 inches high.

Wikipedia also says……

Hardenbergia violacea syn. H. monophylla is a species of flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae, native to Australia from Queensland to Tasmania.[1] It is known in Australia by the common names false sarsaparilla, purple coral pea, happy wanderer, native lilac and waraburra (which comes from the Kattang language).[2] Elsewhere it is also called vine lilac[3] or lilac vine.

It also comes in white, pink and other colours.

 

SPOTTED TURTLE-DOVE (Streptopelia chinensis)

We’ve had some lovely sunshine in Melbourne last week and again this week (since the gale force winds over the past weekend), but I’ve had so many errands (and other commitments), I’ve had little chance to enjoy it.  Monday,  I walked home along the Maribyrnong River path as the sun got lower in the sky and turned much of the surrounding landscape into gold which is really a wonderful time of the afternoon for Photography.

I noticed a couple of Spotted Turtle-doves on a branch in Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve and (fortunately) had the long 150-500 lens with me.  Initially, they seemed to be half asleep but when I took aim through the viewfinder, one opened its eyes as though it sensed my presence.  Impossible from that distance away, so was probably just coincidence the Dove opened its eyes and stared straight at my camera lens at that moment.

The image below (at 4.15pm as I walked home on Monday) gives you an idea of the pleasant weather we’ve experienced.

Yesterday and today was almost picture-postcard perfect too.

Although in one way,  I’ll be glad if it does rain for the rest of the week as we surely need it in Melbourne at this stage of late Winter.  While my balcony tiles have been wet most mornings when I wake (suggesting overnight rain), my potted plants have needed regular watering by hand again!

We’re having a very dry winter here.