While busy keywording images for my stock libraries, I am aware of being watched. I look up from my PC and there are two faces staring through the verandah windows. They are two Australian magpies (bottom right) who, presently, are feeding their three young. I get up and head for the fridge. They watch me with anticipation. I open the verandah door with beef mince in hand and immediately four kookaburras crash down onto the balustrade. Now I have six mouths to feed. Yet another flurry of wings and feathers, and lo and behold, two currawongs I have been feeding for the past ten years, arrive. Although they know me, they are still not brave enough to feed out of my hand. Which cannot be said for the magpies, who, on occasion, I find strolling through the lounge, past our two cats, and into the kitchen to check out if there is any leftover cat food available. Having fed the carnivores but not enough to allow them to get lazy and find their own food, I now have a dozen or so rainbow lorikeets, squabbling amongst themselves, waiting for a handout of bird seed. They alternate between the handout and finding natural food from the many native shrubs we have in our garden. Their favourite is grevillea or the bottlebrush at the bottom of the garden. When the grapes (which amazingly survived our builders) surrounding our verandah are in season, both the rainbow lorikeets and the currawongs check out the ripeness of the fruit. Within minutes, half a dozen galahs arrive and the squabbling between the birds continue. Each frantically chasing the other away. During all this confusion (and noise) a sulphur crested cockatoo ventures nervously on to the deck but although I love them dearly, they are not welcome as a few months back, one cockie completely destroyed a cane chair on the deck and then started on my cane pod chair. I have a water pistol at the ready and I only have to walk towards it, and they take off to the safety of the large gum in the middle of the garden.
I go back to keywording (sigh) and now I hear a familiar whistle coming from the rondelitia next to the deck. Its a crimson rosella which has only recently been visiting us. They are not that common on Sydney northern beaches as their main environment is the much cooler region of the Blue Mountains, 100 kms west of Sydney. They are beautiful parrots and have become tame enough to eat out of my hand. Next to arrive is a male king parrot (top left).
By this time, there are various piles of seed on the deck and balustrade and I make a mental note to hose down the deck after they have finished. Now back to keywording!
Using Topaz Spicify, the image has been enhanced in both colour and "pop". This may be a tad OTT but when printed out, it looks rather good (even if I say so myself!!).
Image enhancing filters
I have recently been experimenting with different filters for post processing images. Topaz has been one of them. Using the adjust filter, one can change rather dramatically an image which may (or may not) need enhancing. Purists argue that one should not enhance or change an image but in this era, we are bombarded with enhanced movies so it seems a natural progression to enhance still images. The pic directly above is the original image (shot RAW and converted using Adobe Camera RAW).
Rather boring shot of Sydney Harbour
I am going to show how a somewhat boring shot of Sydney Harbour (if there ever could be one!) can be turned into something a little more spectacular. Below is the original shot (shot in RAW format with my Canon 5D) and taken off the back of the Manly ferry.
Using Adobe Camera Raw ("ACR"), I converted the raw image with parameters: Blacks 7, brightness +31, Contrast +61, Clarity +77, Vibrance +7, Saturation 72 and a bit of Curves which brought me to the below image.
Flood filter conversion
I then produced a "reflection" using Flaming Pear flood filter. For those unfamiliar with this filter, it gives the image a perception of a reflection (poetical!) and I see it often in publications and I find myself examining ALL images with reflections to see if the photographer had used this very handy filter. I have details of the conversion if anyone is interested but to post it would be a tad boring. Flaming pair flood filters can be found here
I was on my lunch hour when I was strolling around The Rocks area of Sydney when I saw a group of private schoolgirls on an excursion. As soon as I saw their hats, I knew that there was a good opportunity to get a good snap. As luck would have it, they started to cross the street to where I was standing. I knew in my head the image I was looking for and I had to be above them. With an enormous amount of good fortune, a ramp up to a shop in this old area of Sydney was a few metres away. I raced up the ramp and shot this image. It was taken with my Canon 70-200 f/4L at f/5.6 which gave me a shallow depth of field leaving the centre hat in sharp focus and the rest of the hats out of focus. I submitted this image in late 2005 to the Black and White Spider Awards and it won Outstanding Achievement - People and also won me the Photographer of the Year 2005 - amateur. It really is nice to get recognition of one's work and even though I am now a professional, it still gives me a warm feeling when I look at my certificate!
This is an image on which I have added a "flood" filter. It is quite effective and quite a nice shot in any event. Flood filters can be found here and they are worth every cent. There is always a debate regarding "Photoshopping" images but as long as one is honest about the origin and digital changes to the image, I think its legimate. The original image, taken in our garden, of the cockatoo actually landing on the lawn, had a piece of its left hand side wing missing so I "replaced" it in Photoshop CS4. Cockatoos actually dislike water and when they start attacking the timber balustrades on our verandah, all I have to do is get out the spray bottle and walk towards them. They are endearing creatures, very intelligent but are enormously destructive. They are very long lived (up to 80 years) so don't even think of buying one unless you plan to outlive it and put up with the high decibels of squawking! I really hate seeing them in cages and they must long to be free when they see a large flock passing by.
Late one afternoon, I was snapping at Avalon Beach, Sydney, when a storm approached. This did not stop a late surfer. This image is available as a print via my RedBubble site. Click on image which will take you to the print site.
An abstract look at the famous icon. It is very difficult to take any pics of the Opera House as everyone and their brother has done it before. For this particular image, I used Optikvervlabs filter.
I took this shot of a leopard seal exhaling bubbles at Taronga Zoo in Sydney. This is, apparently, one of the few leopard seals in captivity. Apparently it was found injured awhile back and is happy in its huge enclosure at the Zoo along with its mate. Through a stock library, this image is to appear as a full page in a textbook.
This is one of my favourite images of Alice, an elderly aboriginal lady who sadly is now deceased. I would occasionally see her at Circular Quay in Sydney and she would often smile at me. I used a Dragan filter to bring out more texture to the image. I am often asked if I have ever been challenged when photographing candid subjects. Only on one occasion, I was asked not to take a photograph of a female street performer which was odd as that is where they often make their money. So, of course, I acceded to her wishes. Many buskers or street performers expect payment for taking their photograph and its something I always do as its their living, as taking photographs is mine. One of my most popular galleries on my website is one of Sydney Aborigines and I have many kind comments on my work. I did have one person, a Sydney academic, who actually called me a thief as she was under the erroneous impression that I was selling images of these colourful folk without payment which in fact is not true. I have model releases from many and I have made subsequent payments to them.
Mudda Mudda (aka Cedric) is an aboriginal busker who is often found at Circular Quay, in Sydney, accompanying other aboriginal buskers. He has such a great face and this image won me a UK award last year for traditional portraiture here