THE PERFECT DAY (for photography)

It’s been raining on/off for a few days and today has dawned into the perfect photography day. ¬† (I might add the herbs and tomato plants in my Balcony Garden have got some new healthy leaves too).

Blue sky with a smattering of soft cloud cover and soft light. ¬† There’s barely a whisper of a breeze and I’m thinking I wish I still lived near the beach. ¬† If you’re Australian or have visited Australia for a holiday, you’ll know what I mean by the perfect day. ¬† Our sunlight in summer is harsh. ¬† Nothing like the soft light in central Europe or the U.K. in summer.

(I’ve never been to the U.S. or Canada so I can’t comment about their sunlight and I can’t remember what the light was like when I travelled for a short holiday in central Asia).

Reminds me of the perfect day down at St Kilda Beach & boat marina back on the 23rd August, 2015. ¬† This was a day I made lots of photos as the Winter light was so soft and I knew I’d get some ‘keepers’ (i.e. photos you keep and don’t delete).

One of my favourite images of all time. I love the way each person, couple or group is enjoying the day – each on their own – but all in the scene together.
I don’t think I’ve ever shared this shot before. It’s an old clock tower on the other side of the road. There is actually the main road behind this tower where the trams arrive from the city centre and the multi lane road leads on down to the rest of the bayside suburbs and beaches on Port Phillip Bay – the bay on which Melbourne is built at the northern end.
St Kilda is famous for its old bathing pavilion. There’s now a modern indoor swimming pool and some cafes and larger restaurants in the enormous building. This tower is just a small section of the building.

Regular followers will remember I’ve shared some of these images before, but this is (nearly) the whole series I took that day, so there may be some images you’ve never seen.

You can see I experimented with taking shots with minimal sky (emphasizing the foreground) and then the same scene with maximal sky (emphasizing the clouds and sky colour). ¬† Since I can rarely see in the LCD screen on the back of the camera, I usually have to wait until I get home and download the day’s shooting on the large 27″ screen to see what looks good and what doesn’t.

I never ever knew where to put the horizon in the images until I read a photography book that said you can put it anywhere in the frame you like, depending on whether you want to highlight the foreground, background or sky.   The Winter light in Melbourne is nearly always soft due to the cloud cover.

It was probably the last day I visited this bayside beach which lies so close to Melbourne city.   I could still get there via about 3 connecting buses/trams and a walk, but it would take ages and too expensive to just catch a taxi there and back.

I wish there were apartments I could afford back on that south-eastern side of Melbourne because while I can’t get out and about much for a nature walk these days, ¬†I could still visit these old photography haunts (Royal Botanic Gardens, St Kilda Beach, Brighton Beach, Melbourne Zoo, Port Melbourne Beach) easily if I had a car and could still drive.

So far, February, which is usually our hottest Summer month, has been relatively mild and the weather has included intermittent rain showers (and even heavy rainfalls) to help the firefighters still fighting the numerous large bushfires still burning (which will probably take months to burn themselves out).

Looking at next week’s weather forecast there is some rain still to come.

Looks like all the prayers for Australia from around the world are working.   Sad about the floods on the north-eastern coast where many places have had more rain in one day than in the usual whole summer month though.

But farmers are filled with joy after a 3-year drought in which there was no stock food even in the middle of Winter. ¬†The creeks (small rivers) and rivers had dried up, so I’m hoping they’re back running again.

PACIFIC GULL (Larus pacificus)

Before I took up Photography as a hobby in 2010, a seagull was a seagull.

I never knew there 6-7 Gulls in Australia and certainly had never heard of a Pacific Gull (Larus pacificus).

 These gulls are large and have a very distinctive large yellow beak with a red tip.  When I first saw the juvenile brown gull, I thought it was a different species. The juveniles keep their grey-brown feathers and assume their adult plumage over 3-4 years.

The adults have bright yellow legs while the juveniles have more a dark pinkish grey leg colour. ¬†They’re widespread and common, but rarely far from the sea.

I’m glad I managed to capture photos of the Pacific Gull¬†(Larus pacificus)together with the common Silver Gull (Larus novaehollandiae),¬†so you can see the size comparison.

They’re quite common down at Port Melbourne beach at low tide where they search the tide line and seaweed for food, but I’ve also photographed them at St Kilda beach, the closest southern bay side beach to Melbourne City.

CRESTED TERN (Sterna bergii)

Now I live in the western suburbs of Melbourne, I’m not close to the bayside beaches to the south of Melbourne City – only a small western port beach (and that takes some time to get to¬†via 2 buses which run infrequently – miss one bus connection and you have to wait 40 minutes for the next bus).

I’ve spent a lot of time down the beach having fun photographing Silver and Pacific Gulls in the past.

In fact Silver Gulls frequent my current riverside home location too.

I love watching Seagulls in any shape or form.

They’re almost as much fun as watching the House Sparrows and Super Fairy-wrens on my apartment balcony.

While I’ve ¬†never visited coastal regions famous for their bird life since I took up Photography as a hobby in 2010, I did occasionally see a couple of Terns, (some of which are known more for their marshland habitat), down at the local beach.

WHISKERED TERN (Chlidonias hybridus)

I think this tern is the Crested Tern (Sterna bergii) now that I re-read my Australian Bird Guide book this morning.  Originally I thought it was a Whiskered Tern (Chilidonias hybrids).

But if you think I might have identified it incorrectly, please leave me a message in the comments section.  I only have these 2 photos.

There are several Terns that look very similar in Australia, but the Lesser Crested Tern¬†(Sterna bengalensis) which is a better match, (according to the Bird Guide book), with its long slender orange beak and black legs isn’t found this far south.

On the other hand the bird in the image above has a beak that looks more orange and the bird below has a yellow beak. Maybe it’s just the light. ¬† Or maybe, they are 2 different terns ūüôā

I think the flecked wing pattern below merely indicates it is a  juvenile (as is the case in juvenile Silver Gulls).

Bird identification is not as easy as you might think in Australia, what with cross-breeding (or hybrids) a possibility too.   It always pays to get photos from as many angles as possible in Bird Photography.

There are 18 Terns described in my Photographic Field Cuide – Birds in Australia by Jim Flegg.

This is an excellent Field Guide by the way and I can highly recommend it.

ST KILDA PIER & BOAT MARINA

Around this time of Winter 6 years ago, I was down at the bayside beach suburb of St Kilda, (to the south of Melbourne city), and this day was the first, and only, afternoon in which I’ve ever seen the sea completely calm at low tide. ¬†The light was dull, but looking straight into the sun gave the illusion that it was dusk and the sun was setting. ¬†Occasionally the sky seemed slightly more mauve than golden.

The images below were made between 2.40pm and 4.20pm – both looking towards the sun……. and away from the sun.

(note: at this time of Winter in Melbourne, the sun goes down fairly early anyway, but 2.40pm………………such a strange and eerie afternoon).

This image looking straight out to the end of St Kilda Pier shows some of the eerie golden light and was actually made slightly later at 4.36 pm, just before I headed for home.