The old saying that familiarity breeds contempt may be a little strong but it is probably fair to say that familiarity breeds indifference. Things that we see every day, incidents that are common occurrences get swept to the back of our minds and are glazed over so that we can concentrate on the unusual. This is probably a hangover from our stone-age past where it was important that if it was game to be hunted, we would not only see it but take notice of it. It was equally important that we be aware of danger: -“mind that Sabre Tooth”. The familiar non-threatening objects were just ignored.
Crimson Rosellas (Platycercus elegans) are very common in my area. Now I won’t say that they go unnoticed but it is true that not much attention is paid to them. Working in the garden their “quiet chuckle” call or their louder clear call evokes little more than a quick thought of recognition. Driving the roads there is often the flash of red as a small flock takes off from the verge where it has been feeding on grain spilled from a truck. Once again there is little more than that flash of recognition.
The MYN aim is to raise awareness of the common creatures that live in our local areas. Last year MYN co-founder Clay Bolt challenged me with – “some pictures of Lorikeets and maybe Kookaburras would look pretty good in the MYN style”. And yes, they too are common enough. I know when judging nature photo competitions, there is a mental flash whenever a Kookaburra picture is presented, “Oh yes, another bloomin’ Kooka”. This is probably quite unfair, but they do turn up a lot in competition. The problem from a MYN perspective lies in getting that burnt out background behind them. I was too polite to say to Clay: – “In your dreams.” Never the less it provoked quite a lot of thought about where there might be birds that were habituated enough to humans that they would tolerate setting up a “field studio”.
My wife and I quite often take sandwiches and a thermos and have lunch or our evening meal at Lake Bellfield, about a half hour drive from home. There I examine the trees for insects and she delights in the wrens. That’s where the eureka moment happened. Picnickers are often harassed by Crimson Rosellas. Not Lorikeets or Kookaburras but hey, maybe Rosellas would do. After several thwarted attempts – usually caused by such technical details as the wretched birds deciding that someone else’s food looked better than mine – I was able to get undisturbed access to the birds. Other technical problems were such things as too many birds and getting the birds to perch on the piece of branch I provided rather than on my soft boxes. On the last occasion I was out there the birds were just starting to come in and even land on the prop provided when a kid ran up with a piece of bread to feed the birds. The immediate reaction of “……….” had to be stifled as I reminded myself that the object of my photography was not just to get a good image for MYN but to get an image that sparks interest in the subject. The little grot didn’t need my picture to be interested, and what’s more he didn’t have an electronic device in hand. I should have been rejoicing! Still, I am only human.
I had photographed these birds conventionally before, but by photographing them with the pure white background; I saw them in a whole new light. The brilliant reds and the shadings of blue jumped right out and what was a very common species became uncommonly beautiful. To me this is the magic of the MYN process and the field studio, taking the familiar and elevating it to star status.
by John Tiddy, Victoria, Australia