The Italian Job

Seems like its hollow body month. I rarely get these types to work on and yet here I have two in the same month. But this time she’s a koool bass of vintage Italian design and she’s a mystery girl at that.

Will the real ID please step forward..

It has only one guaranteed identifying feature, a made in Italy stamp on the back. Other than that the rest is conjecture and familiarities to a host of possible close relatives.

EDIT: We may have a winner.

The folks at Scotts bass lessons put me onto a Reverb advert that pretty much nailed this lady down to a

67 italian Made landola/Crucianelli Espana EL-38 Bass semi-hollow archtop

Now in their specific description of the bass it mentions a problem with no tone control.

there is likely a loose solder point which is bypassing the tone controls.

So its a common fault? and here is why. The pots are installed with spacers but no lock washer. This means as time goes on the wood, squished by the pot nuts, thins which now means they loosen and thus can turn in their holes. Over time this can rip the wires and in our case the caps, from the solder joints. My advice, replace the spacers with lock/star washers.

the Beatles influence..

The 1960s/70s saw a massive spike in the manufacture of guitars of this type mainly due the to popularity of the Beatles. VOX produced the Cougar bass which is very close in a number of ways to this baby. Lynx guitar, Imperial Tonemaster also close relatives. Vox purchased guitars from the likes of Italian EKO and Crucianelli and if one looks at these enough, certain tell tale factors start to stand up. The machine heads are a specific type, the volume and tone knobs very specific, the truss rod cap and pickup covers again specific as is the bridge and tailpiece. I have found all of these exact parts on makes of this era but never found them all together on the one guitar and this guitar has no badges.

It’s a mystery to me
The game commences
For the usual fee
Plus expenses
Confidential information
It’s in a diary
This is my investigation
It’s not a public inquiry   ~Dire Straits Private investigations

She no speak..

If only she could tell us her story but at present not only is she non sentient but also outputs no sound. Onto the surgeons table for a prod and poke. The input jack was noisy as were the pots. The selector switch was having no fun and something was troubling the pups. An internal colonoscopy through the fhole revealed a few traumas and a nice collection of dust. The tone pots seemed disconnected and a tone cap was left sulking in the corner, its mate missing in action completely.

busted pot

Pot wire broken, full of dust bunnies

Busted cap

Dejected tone capacitor sulking in the corner.

Busted input

Birds nest of dust and sad input jack

during this invasion of her private bits, a good scrutiny was undertook of the many surface cracks to see if it was simply cosmetic old girl skin or problems within. The xray like, careful, inch by inch scanning gave her the all clear.

fhole too small..

Unlike the Artcore job previously, these fholes were way too small for any tool or part transplanting. We will have to go in through the bridge pickup. At this stage we are still unsure where the problems are. Like a current pandemic, the more we test the more problem areas we find ;(

bridge pup dismantle

Surgery will have to be through the bridge pup.The switch is dead

First the switch is dead, these old wafer types often need a clean and a re-align of the wafers. Interestingly the switch feeds the two pup signals to the output, one via a resistor the other via a cap.

pup switch

Wafer 3 way switch

Two problems on the switch. The contacts I cleaned up with fine emery paper. The toggle position holder thingy was a little more tricky to get right and in alignment. This is what holds the toggle in position.

toggle switch

toggle switch and the position thingy

With the switch now working it was obvious we also had a issue with the input jack. Nothing left but to remove all the inner organs.

gutted bass..

gutted bass

entrails removed

With everything out now we can get a clearer picture of what’s going on. We have two volume pots,two tone pots not connected by any wires to anything. A disconnected capacitor, a missing capacitor and four very dirty but period original LESA made in Italy pots.

Its not a clear picture but the bridge pup has some issues. Its too wide for the screw mount housing. The springs have been riding on the coil’s wire for decades, crushing them in some places. The pups still seems to function so the best we can do is use smaller diameter springs and carefully nudge it aside some more so the pressure is at least resting on the cover plate and not the coil like it has been since the day it was born.

potty time..

These pots of old are resilient fellows see my post on pot luck repair. So much better than the current crop of plastic fantastic (IMO) and thus worthy of repair rather than replace. Each one was similarly dismantled flushed and reassembled.

whats in a name…

While Im at it here are a few more ID images.

Headstock, with no badge, very frustrating but fairly grunty tuner cogs. Mind you one is damaged.

lemontreebass-plate

she’s Italian

The only text on the bass, apart from the LESA stamped pots.

return of the bits..

Space is premium inside these semi hollow bodies and there is no ease of part re-orientation and manipulation once inside so I find it best to wire it up on a template board made from scrap wood. I use a 1mm 18awg copper wire to serve as the earth and keep things in relative positions to each other. The pots go in two by tow hurrah hurrah!

lemontreebass-w-tplate

wiring template

We get it all wired up , new input jack, clean pots, new caps, fixed switch and test it all before insertion. Trust me you don’t want to have to do this too many times.

holy pots..

You may have seen my heat shrink trick to help pull the pots through on the artcore but these come with handy holes in the shaft. A necessary advanced technique too because we have to weave these pots around some internal structures and body supports. We need a good tug at times. Wire wrapped and pull em through. Oh and don’t forget the lock washers! One was reluctant (not shown as it came after the image) as there was zero clearance in the corner of the body cavity. Patience and gentle persuasion required at all times with a little help from the colonoscopy.

potsin

pulling the pots through

the switch..

is last to go in and a little fragile compared to the others so it was a little tricky too but everything back in order and we can test here out as a bass.

lemontreebass-rustic

rustic and vintage beauty

A fair amount of general cleaning and dismantle, reassemble and re positioning of the pups took place after this before I was happy with the way it sounded. But in the end there is just something about and Italian and a lemon tree.

a new life

lemon tree bass

don’t you think?

If you know her name, I and its owner would be really interested.

 

Fhole surgery-Electronic transplant for an Artcore

It has been a while since I put up a music related repair. I was asked to fit a new pot,switch and wiring kit into a semi hollow body. As anyone who has worked on semi hollow bodies before will tell you, its all done blind and thru the f hole. Here is how.

Special tools are not necessary but they always help.

Tools to help work in tight spaces

Removal of pot knobs can be troublesome especially if you are concerned with possible damage to the body surface.

Knob removal

I use  an auto dash removal tool to gently lever them off.

Again minimising damage is the thing here so we tape up the edges of the f hole.

Tape up

The input jack, volume and tone pots as well as the pickup selector switch all come out and go back in thru this sound hole. Its tight but doable.

old out new In

 

But before we get too excited I noticed the shafts on the new pots are bigger than the originals. We are going to have to do some drilling.

Big shafts and small holes..we drill

I like to put some tape around anywhere I’m going to drill, it helps the drill bit from slipping and limits the lacquer chipping.

bigger it is

The input jack was also slightly larger too. Make sure we clean up , nothing worse than sawdust and chips bouncing around in someones prize instrument. I made up a little hose from PVC to attach to my vacuum cleaner. Its gets in everywhere.

suck out all the wood bits

Having the pots, switch etc all prewired is a useful thing for two reasons. One its neater and easier to slide it all in and two we can verify it all works first. The pickup wires are removed from the old harness and soldered to the new one out of body so we can test it all first. They are generally only just long enough to do this.

heatshrink on the pots shaft

Helping hands to hold things whilst I solder makes for good connections and a length of heatshrink shrunk onto the furthest from hole pot allows me to gently drag it into position. I have seen string, rubberbands and all sorts used to achieve this. This is my take, they all work. Its usually enough to just have that on the one pot, the others can normally be persuaded into position with fingers or my next tool to feature. Again from the auto dashboard tool kit.

Tool to help push the pots thru the holes.

You can see the heat shrink has pulled the pot pretty much into position. With the bent fork like tool thingo we can push it up and through.

Its worth getting a mirror in there and ensuring no wires are pinched between the body and pots.

mirror view

All looks good. In amongst all this the input jack is pushed onto my jack feeder tool and dragged back thru the whole.

Oh and here is a tip make sure all the washers(star types) which stop the pots spinning as you tighten the nuts up have been previously placed on the shafts. A dob of glue will be enough to hold them whilst we wrestle them into position.

Input Jack

That’s about it. Tighten everything up, plug it all in and test it.

ready to rock

Resurrect cheap speedlight mounts- Pt1

Cracked speedlight mounts? Let me show you a fix.

The typical online cheap speedlight mount, like the one here are made of very low quality plastic.

sppedlightmount_3

Cheap Speedlight mount repair

They tend to crack very easy if you tighten the stand lock . After trialling various glues which never held and a number of encapsulation techniques I decided this approach was the quickest and cheapest way to get these mounts back in my kit bag.

Two problems…

The first issue is the internal lock nut. They often don’t sit flush. The outside of the flanged nut is tapered and thus as you tighten, pulling the nut into its too small a hole, it begins to force the plastic apart. We need to ensure the forces are well and truly on the flange and not on the sides of the nut. Trying to machine out this hexagonal hole for a better fit would be almost impossible. However the plastic is a low temperature type.

Solution 1…

Unscrew the bolt and the nut often falls out. Using pliers and gripping the flange hold it over a heat source, hot air gun, hair dryer it really does not need much heat. Certainly don’t over heat it as it could melt too much into the plastic. With it nice n warm drop it into the hole(aligned with the old hex shape) and using its heat and your pliers push it home until the flange shoulder is hard up against the plastic.

sppedlightmount_1

Make sure the nut is flush

Cracked or not- fix no2…

Our second issue is the cracks or possibility of it cracking along the mould lines or pretty much anywhere. I have a number of these of varying type and all have cracked in different locations. Using a small round file add grooves to each corner.

sppedlightmount_2

Create grooves to hold the wire.

The grooves make it easy to keep the wraps of wire in place. You don’t want the the wire covering the openings(where the stand mounts). AWG25 seems about right. Plenty of strength and allows a little bit of stretch. Wrap the wire around 4 or so times. Get it good n taught, twist it off and then solder on each side to make it all one. Think of it aka a dentist tooth band. The crack is still there but we are stopping it from getting any worse. There is enough space top and bottom of the mount hole to put two bands.

Wrapped up…

That just about wraps it up. I have applied this hack to all my mounts now, those cracked and those yet to crack. These cheap mounts are not the best, they will hold a speedlight ok but add any modifier, umbrella or softbox and the weight is too much to bare. I would not recommend their purchase but if you are like me and started out that way, then you have probably collected quite a number of them. I hate to throw things out and this hack gives them a new lease of life.

Whats Next?…

Stay in touch for Part 2 of this exposè on speedlight mounts. Next up we will discuss why I have moved over to S-type/bowens mounts. But lets not throw these out just yet. I hacked these old E-Type mounts so the speedlight lays parallel to the umbrella pole just like an S-type.

Selens Softlight -Review

Also referred to as a bar light, out of the box and wrapped up, its a little bigger than a speedlight so fits in the kit bag fairly well but is it any use?

Fair fight?

This is a quick review on the Selens softlight speedlight modifier that is kicking around the net for about AUD$35. When I was looking to buy this product I couldn’t find a review anywhere so figured I’d chime in.

I feel this is an attempt to compete with the ICE light and if you are expecting a fair fight consider first the difference in cost. With the Bar light $35 and the ICE light $700 the bar light is not going to knock anyone out of the ring but it might just be enough to get you out of a hole.

Strangely enough the bar light does not appear in a search on the Selens online site, and as its referred to by Selens as a softlight but various sellers as a bar light, it can be hard to get any info on it.

Review..

At 61cm tall its easy enough to work with and large enough for that close in face or head shoulders work. It would certainly be difficult to get this sort of light shape from a flash otherwise so just on that alone I’m giving it a thumbs up. I tend to roll mine up length ways, opposite to that supplied. I find it quicker and it fits in along with my tripods fine I also believe in time it will hold its shape better.

The unit zips up with overlapping flaps to stop light escape, silver lined all the way on the inside except of course for the double diffused slit. The little removable cap sits on top with a minimal of Velcro to hold it in place but this does allow its use of a really long snoot or perhaps two speedlights, one either end.

I found attaching to a speedlight easy enough, they provide one of those silicon stretchy’s which I applied to the speedlight, then dropped that inside the unit and zipped it up.

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Speedlight with silicon stretchy then zip er up.

Even output?

As you would expect the light is not going to be an even spread when there is only one source at its end. With the speedlight set to widest spread(@24mm) there was a good 4 stop difference from top to bottom.

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4 stops @24mm

Setting the speedlight to its zoomed up 105mm yields a better result of 2stops.

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2 stops @ 105mm

It may be hard to judge by the images, the review was an after thought whilst I was doing a quick “unboxing” check to see if it works. But the light meter was consistent at indicating the 2 and 4 stops of difference.

Results..

Again with little time for the task, a quick image of something tall n skinny, my Washburn bass as the model. It certainly provides a quick and usable strip of light. If all you are after is the occasional need, then this might plug the gap.

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Roundup..

For me it will do the job until the money bags pour in. I like the idea I can always have it in the kit and not specifically have to decide to take an ICE like device, especially if you are on the travel and running lite:)

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Lighting a long edge

The featured image (above) was an attempt to show off the curves of the bass and the way the light picked up the fretbars and markings. I feel I’d need some trickery adn ingenuity to get that sort of image with just a speedlight.

selensbarlight

image grabbed from the net for Identification purpose only

 

Manfrotto 055 Pan Repair

Manfrotto MH055MO-Q6 Ball Head

I haven’t posted for a while due to just simply being busy but I think you will like this one.

I recently purchased a second hand Manfrotto MH055MO-Q6 Ball Head. I wont say where from and perhaps the “good price” should have triggered alarm bells. I took the bait, I was assured it was in good working “near new” condition. It was Manfrotto. What could go wrong with these robust and lovely engineered beasts?  It arrived in good time and the un opening indeed revealed a pretty unscratched, clean looking ball head. I put it through some basic tests and noticed the pan lock was weird and  not locking. I hadn’t touched one of these before and there is very little info in its “user manual” or on the net. So I was a little unsure. I put it aside, this was going to require more time.

Next day I spent 3 hours learning, discovering and researching this beast. Eventually we would have a happy ending but it took a few tears and anger management to get there. I’d like to point out here that I feel its a bit of a design flaw on Manfrotto side, perhaps its been addressed in the later revisions but the design does allow the user to get it wrong and potentially wreck it.

Pan-screwplate-burred

Pan plate screw thread

Tale of two pieces.

Lets get straight to the problem and then we will reverse engineer the solution. As you can see above this pan assembly screws up into the ball head. It’s all a little bit interactive. It sets some pretension on the ball head friction so you can’t just screw it all the way in, more on that later. As you can see in the picture the thread is burred and flattened. This is because the threaded plate has spun around and become out of sync with the pan lock pin. The lock pin should protrude through those holes and clamp on the black inner plate NOT the aluminium thread.

alignment

Pan lock pin alignment

If you remove the pan lock knob and its pin you should see this above. A clear hole through to the black plate. In my case all I could see was mushed silver thread. To be totally sure its correct. When you put the pin in it should almost be flush with the outside. If not something is stopping the pin going all the way in and it will grab and mush whatever is in its way.

alignment-pinin

Pan lock pin pushed all the way in.

Lets dig a little deeper.

How it Works..

Disclaimer first. I am not a repair centre. All the information here was gleamed by pulling it apart and thinking it though. As a side note I did find a schematic (spare parts drawing) of similar heads here.

The pan assembly, once removed, consists of three parts. (right to left) the black pan base plate, the aluminium screw plate including the bearing or glide surface and a brass tension/lock ring. The lock ring holds the screw plate onto the black base plate. Looking closely at the brass ring you can see little circles. These are made by the friction or gap setting screws which come up thru the base plate. They stop the brass ring from sandwiching the screw plate to the base so tight that it wont spin/pan. Ill come back to that later. The screw plate simply sits on the base plate , where all that grease is and spins around it. In position, inside the ball head the screw plate does NOT move. It’s actually the black part that spins around. Or its the casing that spins around the stationary base plate which is screwed to the tripod. I guess that’s a Earth around the Sun or Sun around the Earth debate. I’ll leave for the flat earthers to decide.

Pan plates separated.

In my case the lock pin was grabbing on the silver thread and locking that (whilst mushing the thread). This however still allowed the black plate to spin around and thus no pan lock.

The Repair

Was two fold. Repair the damage to the screw thread and then make sure everything was in alignment and the friction was correct across all the surfaces.

As mentioned above the brass ring sandwiches the screw plate to the base plate and with the aid of the set screws sets the friction of the pan. This is where some tooling up is required. In order to remove the pan assembly from the ball head and then the brass ring I had to make up a manfrotto spanner 🙂 Simply a bar of aluminium with appropriate spaced screws that line up with the dowel holes. Shown below is the brass ring end of the spanner.

DIY Manfrotto Spanner

This tool allows me to unscrew the brass ring from the base plate. I cleaned all mating surfaces or mushed aluminium dust and re greased. Re-assemble with just the right amount of pan friction. It shouldn’t wobble but should also not be too tight to spin around. Removal of the pan base from the head requires the other end of my spanner. Here I have a 3/8 hole so a bolt can lock it into the base(via tripod thread) Two 3mm screws thread through the spanner and into the two large dowel holes(left n right) and finally into the smaller holes in the silver screw plate. You may have to rotate things a bit to get this all to line up.  Note in the image below you can also see the black rubber ball (up n down)which normally sits snugly on top of the brass ring set screws. You will need to remove these to adjust the friction and if you are going to separate the brass ring from the assembly.

Removing the pan assembly from the head.

and this is the pan assembly end of the spanner. Ignore the left most hole it was in error and not used. The bolt holds the spanner to the base and the two screws must engage into the dowels on the silver screw plate. Its this plate, the inner aluminium that needs to be unscrewed. Note in my case as the thread was mushed this was a little bit hairy. I didn’t want to cause more problems to the already damaged thread. Take it easy, especially when putting it back in paying close attention not to cross thread it.

3/8 bolt and two 3mm screws to engage and allow unlocking of the thread plate.

 

Once removed I cleaned the screw thread very carefully with small needle files only where it was mushed and hope it wouldn’t derail on the way back in. When screwing the assembly back into the head don’t go all the way as that will apply pressure to the ball lock assembly. I pretty much went in till it stopped then unscrewed until the pan lock hole aligned with the screw thread plate hole as shown previously. This gave me a loose ball but still plenty of friction to lock it in position when required and allowed proper use of the pan lock system.

So here is the $100 flaw.

One may ask, “so what stops the silver plate from unscrewing when you pan the head”? I hope you are still with me and have followed to the end because this is the important part. Apart from the pan knob and lock pin there is nothing else. So if you do unscrew the knob ie loosen it way too much then swivel the pan it can become unaligned. Except for this one little old  grub screw I wonder what you do?

the grub screw

Hidden away almost under the ball lock knob is a small grub screw. If you are removing the base assembly this screw must be removed. It basically screws into the silver thread and locks it to the outer casing..ie stops it from unscrewing itself on the odd occasion someone has removed the pan knob and swivels the pan base. There is no indent or dowel hole and the grub is small compared to the mechanical advantage of the base so it does not provide this, after thought, of safety very well. Make sure you put it back in tho.

All Smiles.

The end result turned out ok. I avoided a financial disaster and possibly saved confrontation with a disreputable seller.  I also have to report the head lives up to its name. Ok it was perhaps abused by a muppet of a user but on the upside and in the hands of someone with even half an IQ point its a super solid robust bit of kit that will no doubt last a lifetime. Even after abuse and misuse Manfrotto lives on.

an Adams adventure

took a walk around Adams creek NCR over the holidays. Was unable to find much info about the place. Parks Victoria gives you very little to work with. I did find some dated blogs here and here . Mostly with info on birds and insects.

So not much in the way of maps either. Google about the only source that I could find.

adamscreeksat1

google Sat map of the area and quarries

Intrigued..

I decided to pay the place a visit. Twas the morning after a scorching heatwave and it decided to pay us back with a consistent rain the moment we set foot on terra firma. The  preceding heat  or perhaps rain, had dampened the local inhabitants enthusiasm. It was a fairly quiet outing.

We came in off the South Gippy end and up Hookers Rd. Parking is just after the cross roads used by the mighty quarry trucks. Nothing special just a bit of clear dirt. (the red circle on the map below) A fairly new looking gate denies access further up Hookers rd. The railway line is about 400m further in. The tracks comprise mostly of loamy soil and vary in size and constitution, they are unkept and infrequently used, apart from horses and wombats.  The small dam/pond off to the left another 100 or so, is fairly small with plenty of reeds and going by the ruckus plenty of  frogs too .

On arrival at the old train line we headed west(left), for a about 300m  crossed the line and followed the, northern east west, path back. Well not quite. I expected to get back to Hookers by crossing the line again at “y” but no path seen. We also tried to find the track that should have taken us over the creek “x”. But any remnants of its existence is long gone. So a bit of back tracking was in order.

adamscreek._xy

Our Adams creek walk

Our digression into the bush at that point did not reveal a creek but perhaps the “greenery” line of undergrowth that denotes its obscured presence. By now we were soaked thru and it wasn’t letting up. We can and will try a second attempt in the near future but this time approach from the north.

life continues even if the paths don’t

I’m not a twitcher or birder but anything that moves or looks interesting is fair game to my camera. Along the way there were numerous butterflies, all of which I failed to capture but one. They don’t sit still long.

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A decent supply of bull ants, the red bull types, sure to give you wings if they should bite

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Red bull ant

and despite the abundant signage for “no motorbikes” we spotted a couple in their colourful paraphernalia.

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No Dirtbikes it says

The melodic taunts of the Grey Butcher-bird was a joy to hear.

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Grey butcher bird

Not being a twitcher there were a few other calls I could not distinguish or spot the owners of.

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Yellow-faced honeyeater

A number of White-naped honeyeaters came and went at various times.

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white-napped honeyeater

This little fellow was playing hard to get and I failed to focus quick enough.

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Eastern yellow robin perhaps?

One indication that there was water up this far north(away from the pond as we were now) was this special fellow. Was not expecting to see a Sacred Kingfisher here.

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Sacred kingfisher

Heading back home, now drenched and camera wrapped up for safe keeping I ventured it out once more to snap this playful White-throated treecreeper.

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White-throated Treecreeper

All in all it wasn’t a bad day, most of the shots however were very much a long arm away and the birds seemed unused to humans and twittered off rather quickly. There were many small thin seldom used tracks heading off at various points, no doubt unofficial. I doubt anything spectacular will arise but its well worth a re visit.

 

Many thanks to David J for helping with the IDs. His blogs and flickr page well worth a visit. If you have liked this visual stroll do look me up on my flicker page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long Island walks

So these words are written a week or so after the fact. How quickly the memories of holidays fade but I’ll do my best to recall  the details.

 

Palm bay resort lies on the west side of Long Island and I think the closest of the islands to Shute harbour(main land). Long Island has a number of walks maintained by the National parks.

Tracks here are decent. I would not recommend thongs tho. The ground is rocky and  thicker, sturdier soles are required. But perhaps you have stronger, more accustomed feet to mine.

DSC_2991

A little rocky and steep , best take good shoes and water.

These walks are not as vast as once were  and the ‘circuits’ are now just the two main branches North and South. With the cyclone activity up here there is much to be rebuilt so bare in mind as per my previous disclaimer things are ever on the change and this particular account is as I found it.

DSC_2932

Pretty much the view from just in front of the Sandy Bay camping site. I could easily wake up to this each morning.

Branch 1 takes you South to Sandy bay

Sandy bay is, I believe, the only camping destination on the island and is well worth the short 3k hike. The path has some moderate inclines taking you up over and through the rainforest. As with many of the paths there is unfortunately  only few glimpses, between trees, of the magnificent beach and islands vistas that you know are there.

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A break in the trees provides amazing vistas

I often found myself wishing for a few less foreground trees or perhaps a platform to view the amazing scenery which lies just beyond. Sandy bay is however well worth the walk.

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Mangroves reclaiming the beach

Whilst mangroves are present fringing the edges it is still mostly a beautiful large, shallow, sandy and open beach. We must have walked 5oom out into the bay and still only in knee depth of water at low tide.

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Knee deep at low tide

The track ends at this beach but its a terrific place for a picnic lunch and a snooze in the warm sand. Jacqui spotted a rustling behind us in the form of a most gorgeous lace monitor.

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We also spotted a family of curlews that were clever enough to avoid my lens. The mangrove pictured further up above suddenly blossomed to life with the iridescent blue of a kingfisher. As can bee seen from my ‘foot’ picture he was a fair ways off and the 400mm lens did not quite have the reach but we watched him for quite a while catching  a feast of crabs.

Just prior to heading back, we noticed this ‘clump’ on the end of one of the branches I believe it to be an ants nest.

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Ants nest, a most clever architecture.

We fully intended taking this walk again but somehow never found the time. Would have loved to have seen it in high tide.

North to Happy bay..

2018-09-20 09.46.35

singpost on the way back

Heading North is the easier shorter of the tracks. The uphill trek at either ends of the compass are steep but short. About midway along, it splits west to Fish bay and East to Pandanus. But we will continue North for now.

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The iconic pier(closed and unstable now) of Long Island Resort

Long Island resort..Closed..

The semi abandoned resort around the bend at Happy bay is no longer as happy as maybe it once was and reminds us of how edge like the balance is here. A window into better times, now closed perhaps for good.

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NO Entry, This is as close as the fences and ropes allow.

A caretaker resides keeping the place from complete desolation but perhaps this is a game against time we will loose. It’s that catch 22, enough of the infrastructure still viable but would take a good helping of restoration to make it a tourist destination again. Such a shame.

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The fallen

Life is still in abundance here of course as the rainforest slowly crawls into and reclaims the resort for its own.

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Curlew in wonder of mans heavy burden and necessities for life

When we first arrived a raven was hard at work claiming the beach.

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Raven seeing off a goanna.

the beach however is still a gorgeous place to visit.

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Happy bay once had many happy returns no doubt

Tide times are important here, just as they are around many of the Whitsunday Islands. The water can wade out 6m,  leaving an expanse of sandy, rocky or silty beach. This also has a large impact on the colour. Deep turquoise gives way to a sandy brown almost desolate scape within a few hours of the sea drifting out.

The beach looked deserted and it took a while to realise it was constantly moving. Alive, swaying this way and that as a sea of crabs swarmed over its surface. Like miniature martians they swarm over the exposed sea bed in search of food

Little beasts are hard to capture too. Each step closer you take to them, they scurry underground.

A pied oystercatcher wandered past in search of a bite

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Like a washed up coral the resort is a shadow of its former self.

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A sign of man and perhaps the hope of rebuilding.

The beach of the old resort of long island is accessible via the track but be mindful access to the resort itself is off limits.

Long Island circuit-Closed Not found.

We did not have the time to search for  this track which I actually think starts in the resort and with it being closed may be hard to or impossible to walk. We began to head back south.

Round Hill circuit-Closed

We did find the remains of the sign. The old track is well overgrown and roped off.

Humpty point

The track to the resort splits before the fence and you can trek up to humpty point. The rock outcrop is snugly surrounded by trees and view is hampered. Would be a terrific spot for  small tower and outlook. There is little reward for the climb up.

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The secret of Pandanus bay

Pandanus bay

Is worth a visit and I feel is kept a little secret. The snorkling here ‘would’ be exceptional as I’ll describe later but mention here first that with no ‘protection’ from the resort and a fair hike to anyone, you are very much on your own. I watched just off the bay where it starts to head into the channel between two Islands and you can see the currents. I watched  a sea turtle vigorously swimming and not getting far against these currents. You have been warned. We visited this beach a number of times(and ha hmm from a number of directions) and it can change. One particular day it was very choppy and very much a no go zone but on others with the tide just right the water is magnificent and contains a multitude of fish and coral.

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Tidal bridge to Pelican Island

Why do I know this? No I did not snorkel but did take the walk across the tidal bridge to Pelican Island. From here you look back and into the waters of the bay.

Pelican Island.

We had scouted this area a few days and knew the tides. That is your warning!. Again I proclaim, “there is no one around to hear you scream for help”. Parts of the island are also subject to landfall, the rocky outcrops we walked on could break free. I consider myself fairly experienced in this sort of thing yet still I did not go alone, left messages as to where we were and kept vigilant.

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Looking back towards Pandanus bay

Once on the island you can’t easily circumnavigate it and the southern side is quite bland compared to the northern or inner bay side anyway. We spent most of our time on the inner or bay side. Deep channels of water provided amazing scenes of fish.

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fish a plenty in this fishermans basket

Of course I did not have my polariser lens and of course I did not have my gopro to lower in so this is the best I have. you will just have to trust my word.

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Morning!

Or perhaps this turtle is proof enough.

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Lovely in and around the inner rocks of Pelican Island. Quickly gets deep with strong currents.

Another brief picnic with this sort of view and we headed back across the tidal bridge.

This area would have been the ‘back’ beach of the long island resort and there are still remains of man.

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Remnants of another time

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Ghostbusters! A warning perhaps we walk these rocks with intrepitude.

Heading back to Pandanus bay and the track back to our resort.

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oh I’m beached bro so beached!

Fish Bay

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Fish bay very much reclaimed by the mangroves

But a quick look at Fish bay. Heading back across to the Western side of Long island we have Fish bay. Pretty thick with mangroves, not a lot to be had here.

 

Thats pretty much it for the two tracks north and south from Palm bay resort. Easy morning or afternoon walks and great for  a picnic. There is plenty of washed up rubbish along the rocks, so do a thing for nature and take an extra bag , grab what you can and dispose of it correctly so we can try and keep this area pristine for others. We did encounter one snake that rushed across our path so do remember this is the bush. Be bush savvy.

Island survival-Long Island Whitsundays

Relax, sunsets and eagles…Palm Bay Resort

Another episode in the series on Palm Bay Resort. See Where eagles dare for an amazing close encounter with these aerial beauties.

The Resort…

If I don’t start writing this story now it will never get written and if it did, at that later date, it wont contain the same words, thoughts, feelings and observations. For instance I wouldn’t have a brush turkey, which is currently scratching through the under growth, within arms reach.

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The cockatoo that just landed on the balcony in search of food would not be there imploring me to offer it some tit bits of food and distracting me from the keyboard. So now while the memories are fresh and still being formed, is the best time to make ink.

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Sunrise on the back beach(helipad side)

Disclaimer.

This place is seasonal, everything changes, just like the pair of red back sea eagles currently building their nest over the southern arm of the bay.The tide, ebbs and flows and the moon, rises and sets. Time will move on. Bringing with it changes I can not vouch for, anticipate and thus pass on to you. What I can do tho is paint a better picture than the one I was given by a few online searches before I left. I can fill in some of the gaps for you. A detail or two that might change the way you view this amazing island or help shape a decision that needs to be made. An inspiring and rich experience is here waiting for you. Even tho I now feel a part of me resides forever on these shores I am not staff or in any way connected with the resort, other than that of a visitor.

What is a resort?

The word resort may provoke different imagery and thoughts in different people so I thought best we start with a definition.

Resort,

a place to which people frequently or generally go for relaxation or pleasure, especially one providing rest and recreation facilities for vacationers:

~Dictionary.com

Whilst this Island fulfils the verbs in the above description and whilst I agree the provision for recreation and facilities is available to its temporal inhabitants, including exotic flights and trips by boat to some of the worlds best seascapes. It is not the hustle action packed place we often envision when someone says, “resort”. I have emphasised the word relaxation in the definition for good reason. Having said that, snorkeling gear and kyaks are available for free to explore the bay area along with some great walks.

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Palm Bay Resort

Limited to approximately  55 guests it provides ample spaces to unwind and unplug. The communal area does provide a meeting place to reconnect with humans but it is also spacious with under cover and external areas to prepare, cook and eat or simply chat over a cocktail made in its extensive bar(Tell Marco, the barman, that Mark sent you …”On approval”. He will know what that means.) There are a number of BBQs, gas cooktops, an oven, a microwave and plenty of pots pans, and cooking utensils.  But best of all, they do the dishes!. Yep suddenly I enjoyed cooking again 🙂 Until you try this system, where you cook and they clean up, you have no idea how wonderful it is.

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Cooking area

There is a small amount of groceries in the resorts pantry for you to purchase including ice-creams and bottles of wine. But most guest either bring their own food or get one of the provisions suppliers to have it there ready for you. A large cool room and freezers are available to keep food fresh. Wood fired pizza of excellent quality is available made to order right there in front of you.(His baked muffins aren’t bad either).

Please note there is no BYO alcohol to this island. The cocktails, beer and wine can be purchased as you desire at the bar for a modest fee.

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Blue pool

Cool off in the blue of all blues pool if you like. Its a salted pool and so no nasty chlorine smells to contend with. Plenty of seating, shade and general lounging available. They even have thought to supply plastic cocktail glasses so you can sip n dip without fear of glass breakages.

There is no wifi but you do have a few bars of phone reception coming across the waters from Shute Harbour. There is one TV and it’s in the recreation room, which also houses some basic weights and yoga mats. Next to this is the Palm Blue massage room which operates on certain days.

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Sunset view from my hammock

With only 50 or so people there are plenty of places to hideaway and find your own space. Sunrise and sunset viewing huts, swing seats and of course there are the hammocks and seats on your own balcony looking out over the bay.

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Sunrise swing seat overlooking Dent, Hamilton Island and the rising sun.

Life abundant…

This island, the resort itself with its open community spaces, is teaming with life. Numerous species of butterfly and birds abundantly flitter past you as you walk. Sitting in the meal areas we often chose the open, uncovered, section as it was in close proximity to the water fountain and trees.

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Yellow Spotted Honeyeater

The lorikeets, cockatoos, wattle birds, sunbirds, honeyeaters and egrets spend their day feasting, bathing and drinking this spring of life giving water.

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Rainbow lorikeet having a bath

A swing seat is strategically positioned just behind the sunset bar shack  is  also a favourite place to just sit and watch. Take your time tho. These are wild birds and require quiet, still, patience on your behalf before they come out to play.

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Olive Backed Sunbird

You have to be ‘apart of the furniture’ and if you’re good at it they will return and put on a show. I was amazed when the rather timid rock wallabies suddenly emerged to also drink and wander through.

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Rock Wallabies

Water here, as anywhere, is obviously of high importance. The barge parked out front in the bays channel, pumping fresh water into the resort is a stark reminder that things are grim water wise. Humans consume gallons of the stuff in our day to day activities. The barge drops in from time to time as needs be to replenish the water tanks.

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Our life blood, water arriving from the main land

The island seems to survive the lack of rainfall but we on the other hand would soon wilt. The resort could not sustain us and would have to close its doors if it was not for the ‘top ups’ supplied from the main land. I’m thinking this is not a cheap venture and no doubt adds to the price tag of a stay here.

Flutterbys…

Along with the plethora of birds of course are numerous species of butterfly and I’m told it wasn’t even their season yet?

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Butterflies of all sorts and sizes

The walkways between buildings seem to always have a  ‘guard of honor arch’ of butterflies peeling away from the shrubbed walls as you walked past.

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Gorgeous coloured butterflies adorn the trees n shrubs

The staff, lifeblood of any tourist destination...

The best way to describe the staff here is by simply mentioning that one night they all set aside a table for themselves fit for a feast. It was a birthday celebration and the comradery was evident. They are indeed a happy team living a magnificent life it is true but work is work no matter where you are or what you do to make ends meet. But for sure those ends seem to be a lot more enjoyable and stress less here in this paradise.

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Last sunset and staff walk past as if to say farewell

There is so much to see here and so little to do. The contradiction holds merit. As a photographer it was the first time I really felt I was going to miss something if I didn’t have the camera constantly with me. I got into the habit of taking it wherever I went because there was no ‘just in case’, it was always ‘what will you miss’ . I spent many an hour just looking out from the balcony or sitting on the beach watching the constant parade of life march past. Something was always afoot.

The next instalment will focus on the walks and areas surrounding the main resort. For now just bask in the sun.

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Just add you

Where eagles dare..

This is the eagle installment of my Long Island Whitsundays trip.

To recap, I recently had a close encounter with two red backed eagles (RB) (Brahminy Kites) and a White Bellied sea eagle, (WBSE)whilst on holiday in the Whitsundays. As stated I was on holiday and thus only had my minimal camera gear on hand. Oh how I wish I had taken the Nikon 200-500 lens but in the same breath I’m so happy that I at least had the Tamron 18-400mm. Softer is true but for a “travel” lens, that 400mm reach at least gets you in the ball park. But what I really want to dwell on here is not my inadequacy to image capture these amazing birds but to pass on a true connection with animals of the wild, one rarely gets to have. This unforgettable memory, this tolerance of my invasion into their space, was a most unexpected reward for my patience and endeavour.

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Leave them be..

I now perhaps understand what many wildlife photographers  deal with day in day out. I can associate with how they spend hours in uncomfortable positions. I am not sure who was more curious, the eagles of me or I of them but I can say it took quite a while for the bond to become strong enough that they allowed me, partly at least, into their world. The WBSE  was far more standoffish with me, that is right up until the last day. His final acceptance of me into their  territory was humbling and one I feel very honored to have had. Having spent many an hour previously with other local birds (Melbourne) it was not until this day that I realised the emotional depth and power of  rapport one can have with nature. Today, walking around my backyard in my daily to and fro back in Melbourne I keep looking up over my shoulder, longing, hoping and almost expecting to catch a glimpse of the soaring aviators.

Tolerance..

The tolerance and ‘gentleman’s agreement’ , the cohabitation these eagles have for and with each other is incredible to watch. They hunt for similar foods in overlapping areas but always keep out of each others way, keeping a respectful  distance apart. The only time I saw a possible inflexibility in the RBs happened, when the WBSE strayed a little too close to the RB’s nest. Whether this was a testing, inquisitive run or not I am unsure but the RBs soon chased him out of that ‘too close to home zone’. Ahh the nest.. and it is with this word that begins my story.

the Nest…

It was not long after we settled onto the shores of Palm Bay Resort (Long Island). My camera still packed away. That I noticed a bird of prey like silhouette sweep across the sky slightly above the resorts communal area. I admit I got a little excited. I went back to the  room and broke open the camera gear. Using the amazing reach of the Tamron lens I could clearly see it was indeed an eagle of some sort. A little research and its id was apparent. Sitting there eating my dinner and watching this BOP sweep across the sky was magic in itself. I noticed it was constantly bringing twigs to and fro, meaning one thing, nest building.

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Red Backed sea eagle(Brahminy Kite). Masters of the coastal skies

Keeping watch..

My surveillance began. These birds spend eons soaring the winds a clifftop, looking down on the shallow bay waters for prey. Gently drifting the air currents with masterful flying skills. Only occasionally did they return ‘home’. As an amateur I could not tell the difference between the pair of RBs so him and her, if used, is arbitrary.  Without food, ‘he’ often returned with a few well chosen sticks, I guess so as not to appear empty handed and incur the wrath of the misses. She kept watch over the nest, hunkered down in the twigs, visible only occasional when her white chest and head rose above.  I found a number of spots to keep an eye on them and eventually located the nest. I worked  a few angles, one way across the bay at about the same as the nest height. It was distant but allowed me to observe without interrupting them and see on a similar level.

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A busy background but a nice height for daily observations

Not the best for images but it allowed me to see their day to day routines.  Above we see the male returning home with the expectant partner on nest edge, eager to see what might come in on the wing. As mentioned, male female recognition was beyond me and they certainly swapped roles, often working as tag team. This is the highest I could get and through out the time I had with them, I never saw a hint of chicks, perhaps yet to be born.

A lower angle but it did allow me to get closer. I wanted to return to this spot with a tripod and shutter release but there is only so much you can do in the time you are given.

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Home with dinner or just a rest?

There was also a red head  I was neglecting at the cocktail bar and after 30 years of investment in that relationship I’d be wise to get back to her.

The beach hunt…

I am not an eagle expert, far from it. I couldn’t tell you their dietary needs but it was obvious from a few days observation and learning their usual ‘hangouts’ over the coastline that it heavily included seafood.

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Free in breeze he came to see who and what I was.

It was here our relationship began. First contact or recognition of each others existence. He had been cruising this part of the shoreline for a while and I slowly made my way down to the pebbles. An hour or so and he decided to swing over and checkout this procumbent  figure sprawled over the rocks. He hovered 30 or so meters above my head, just looking, Head gently shifting side to side. Our eyes met and in a moments gaze established my amiability and respect and in turn I believe his acceptance of my intentions.  I lay there for another hour, oblivious to the insects devouring my flesh, the pebbles were now sharp rocks inflicting pain on my bones, the camera lay by my side, muscles unable to hold it in position anymore. I simply watched the two take turns on the wing.

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An amazing bird of prey and amicable relationship.

From this time on I was allowed a little closer and while I always respected their space and gave them their own time alone I did venture closer to the nest.

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daily chores back to work building the nest

At the nest…

A climb in the hot sun lead me to a spot directly under the nest. I was able to camouflage myself a little by ‘diggin’ in under a bush. Again with the insects bites, sticks in my back lying flat looking up. Sooner or later they had to return surely? Time slipped by and ambled on. One slow moment followed loosely by another. A call and cry echoed off the cliff walls. He was close. Despite my attempt at hiding he had spotted me, there was no doubt. His approach as I had observed countless times from afar was different. After circling a number of times he came in a branch short of the nest. Perched looking down it was he who was now closely scrutinising me.

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Who are you and what are your intentions?

Did it take time to recognise me or had I now broken the rules? Over stepped my mark perhaps? I was feeling a little guilty like I’d broken some unwritten agreement. In my mind I also kept asking where was his mate. I was a little on edge tis true, only minutes before a goanna had sauntered past my hideout. Some what startled the both of us had also applied the gaze of “whats your intent”, friend or foe?

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friend or foe?

The goanna believed my humble friendly and grateful eyes and moved on.

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Whilst in my cove of invisibility, a pied imperial pigeon had also perched close by but moved on fairly quickly.

Returning to our main story now, the RB had granted me clemency. One more brief tight, circuit and he reverted to his original flight plan back home to the nest.

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A last look, a deceleration of leniency then back to the nesting.

I stayed a little while longer but decided I had plagued them long enough. Removing myself from the tangle of leaves and bush I quietly left them to their own peace.

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Ever watchful

I turned as if I knew I was being watched, the nest was empty. Silently he had removed himself to a better watchtower and I guess was approving of my departure.

With a final dismissal the king, upon his throne, returned his attention to assessing his kingdom from on high. And all was good.

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The king regarding his kingdom

The final flight…

The story as yet tho is unfinished. Whilst we are in the last chapter my feathered friends would deliver a final act deserving a standing ovation and fond farewell.

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White bellied sea eagle keeps his distance

Till now I have concentrated this story on the antics of the RBs. The WBSE was far more removed and although I had glimpsed him occasionally, he flew higher and kept a further distance. I had taken a walk along the foreshore on the back beach(Eastern) heading towards Pelican Island and it was on this walk I found his home territory. They travel such distances on their meandering hunts that much larger lenses are required unless you are prepared to settle down and wait. Two specific areas were often visited but I never seamed to be in the right one at the right time.

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White bellied eagle surveys his lands

His favored perch was much higher and much further away from humankind. My interaction with this larger more subdued flyer was limited. He was more inclined to just take the breeze away, toward another beach when he spotted the unusual.

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The one or two occasions when he did fly overhead I was never ready, in the wrong mode or simply too distracted by something else, perhaps that red head I mentioned earlier.

On the last morning, destined for an early pickup by boat from our island hideaway we had readied earlier than expected and we wondered down to the eastern beach once more. The sun had already just peaked over Hamilton and Dent islands but I’d taken my camera anyway. Fully intent on just sitting on the sunrise swing seat and just taking the scene in one last time. But as we crested the helipad a large shadow rose from the dropping beach, I flicked the camera on but nothing happened. I pushed the shutter again and still nothing. As dawn was breaking over the ocean it occurred to me that the night previously I was in delayed shutter mode, ISO 100 with ND filters on and manual with long shutter times. I had been dogmatic about resetting my camera after a shoot to a more normal mode should such an occasion catch me off guard like now. But I was heading home, expected no other images and had lapsed to old bad habits. I corrected the camera but the ‘shadow’ had loomed away.

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Impressionistic view of the WBSE after food pickup

Sitting quietly now we waited and he returned. Something yet to be identified by me was washed up the edge of the waves and was certainly attracting the attention of the aerial consumers. Like airplanes circling to land he formed a pattern  of slow descending horizontal loops then plunged downward to swoop. The hope of an easy feast had removed his wariness and concern of our company.

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Impressionistic view of the WBSE coming in for the kill

It was a feast for our eyes watching this ritual of aerobatic skills.

I slowly removed myself from the seat to get a better POV as I was currently shooting straight into the sun. Once again laying on those pebbles but at least I was now getting some side light and on their ground level.

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In hover mode just before the swoop

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The flair and pickup

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A successful capture

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It was only time before others appeared on the scene and I was amazed how a few seagulls could turn away such a a large and powerful adversary. I guess size has some sort of penance and tolerance for the weaker.

These two persistent seagulls decided it was their easy meal and harangued the WBSE till he swept away to a nearby perch and still they pestered.

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Leave me alone!!

In life however there is always one who wants more than the other and the the two RBs appeared above ready to cash in on the removal of the WBSE from the party. I noticed an intelligence in the tactics. One held the high ground ready to attack and protect while the other swooped in for a catch in the now cleared airspace.

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Ready for action

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Snatch n grab

Fabulous air skills flying low and fast. The flair and attack dive was fascinating to watch. I was some what hampered by my laying position on the rocks (yes they were once again hard pointy rocks by this time) but still managed some decent images.

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One of my favorite shots. A perfect bird in a perfect environment producing a perfect flying display

RB in action anticipating another pickup.

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One could believe there is a smile on his face and he was enjoying this

The WBSE remained high cruising perhaps regretful of its relinquished meal but I’d rather suspect that things turn and swing on a dime out here in the wild. What one day is his victory will be another’s loss. Either way in the long term the sky is theirs and there is no doubt of their stamp on its dominance.

This last hurrah and parting gift of theirs to me was immense and left me brimming from ear to ear as I left the island.

What was more, almost obtuse to me, was that most inhabitants were unaware. The sore back, crook neck, bruised limbs and bitten flesh was well worth the price of entry to the show of a lifetime.

There is more to come of the Whitsundays trip so stay tuned. Also see the images over on my Whitsundays flickr album.

Sparrow on the Schoolyard Wall ~Jethro Tull
You want to be a bookworm?
You want to be aloof?
You want to sit in judgment,
Looking down from the roof?
Try a wee sensation: but first you have to want to join in.
You should be, should be raging
Down the freeway
With some friends from the mall.
Don’t stay forever in your limbo:
Fly before you fall,
Little sparrow on the schoolyard wall.
So dress a little dangerous
And modify your walk.
There’s nothing wrong with sparrows,
But try to be a sparrowhawk.
Hunting in the evening and floating
In the heat in the day.
You might, might acquire
Some predatory instinct.
Do the wolf pack crawl.
Don’t stay forever in your limbo:
Fly before you fall,
Little sparrow on the schoolyard wall.
Little sparrow on the wall.
Well, I don’t want to be your daddy.
Don’t want to be your engineer of sin.
And I don’t want to play the piper here.
I’m only banging on a mandolin
And anyway, you’re just a little sparrow
On the schoolyard wall.
There’s nothing wrong with learning.
Nothing wrong with your books.
So exercise some judgment.
Too much broth can spoil the cook.
Feel a little sensation
And know when it’s time to join in.
You should be, should be raging down
The freeway with some friends from the mall.
Don’t stay forever in your limbo:
Fly before you fall,
Before you fall, little sparrow
On the schoolyard wall.
Little sparrow on the schoolyard wall.
Little sparrow on the schoolyard wall.
Little sparrow on the schoolyard wall.
Little sparrow on the schoolyard wall.
Songwriters: Ian Anderson
Sparrow on the Schoolyard Wall lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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Don’t be a sparrowhawk when you can soar with the eagles

 

Photobooks-The Creation of

An important step

Just like heading home and processing your images after a days shoot, creating a photobook at some point is a very important step to being a better photographer. I have spoken before about the importance of processing your images. This self critique phase greatly helps us become better photographers. This image was good but I had to brighten the exposure half a stop, nice composition but the horizon wasn’t straight etc. We fix in post processing but remember to get it right in camera next time around.

Photobook phase

With books we assemble a number of images and see them at the same time/space, possibly gathered from across a broad time frame, maybe the same subject matter but from different locations etc. When we see these together we notice common traits, trends, persistent problems or even notice how we have matured and refined our skills. Whilst creating my first landscape collection I personally noticed the difference in how I process clouds for example. How certain locations lead me to a lighter blue hue whilst others a deeper warmer gold when processed. You notice this when you try to put them on the same page.

How to make Photobooks – Open source

Really a series of notes for myself on workflow which you may find of interest. Hopefully I will learn better ways as I go and will thus update this in time.

I use Darktable (DT) and at the time of writing 2.4 stable has just been released. Thanks so much guys this is an awesome bit of software. I would not be doing any of this if it wasn’t for the free flavour of such software and the amazing “cheapness” of equipment nowadays. You people have elevated those of us not so financially fortuitous to a position where we too can enjoy creativity.

Tags tags and more tags

Tag everything, right from the get go. So you have a nice image of rolling waves, against a sunset vista. Basic tags come to mind, sunset, waves, sea, beach. Think more, landscape, seascape, water. You never know what you might be searching for so the more tags the merrier. Photobooks help you out here, forces you to allocate more tags. As you sort images which may or may not fit in the current collection you are making, it does not stop you from you tagging as you go. This will help future searches. Yes at the moment of image transfer from camera to storage its time consuming. But it helps you think about your image if nothing else.

Photobook and printers

My initial thought here was to create a PDF, then send that off to a printers. Problem is the “cheap” (quality is excellent nowadays) printers aimed at the DIY amateur/enthusiast don’t seem to want to accept PDFs. Well not here anyway. I can list 6 Australian companies that provide pretty good free layout software but don’t support PDF to book printing. This means to reprint, you have to use their app again. If you decide to do a bulk run you have to either use that basic setup or start from scratch. There are printing companies, aimed more at the commercial or DIY publishers market that accept PDFs but the breakpoint money wise is 50 off or so, as they require setup fees.

Also creating a book layout is a lot of work with lots of traps, edge bleed margins and spine and sizing etc. All taken care of with the company layout software. Things you have to work out on your own if going the PDF way. PDF is the way to go, more professional, more control  and access to creativity etc but with that comes a much bigger learning curve.

Scribus perhpas the way

Im still looking at this area. Some use Scribus. An open source desktop publisher. There are writeups on how to get started with these photobook templates.

It creates PDFs, you have to create the layout, workout the margins etc and of course requires sending to a publisher rather than a “hobbies” printers.

The easier shorter path

For these reasons the easier or shorter path, the get your feet wet fast would be the many simpler hobby type printers. They are geared up to quickly get your image onto a cup, tshirt or book at good quality and good prices.

Falling at the first hurdle linux

Problem is not many offer Linux friendly software and I could not get the ones I tried, to install under WineHQ. I also had trouble getting some of the online layout apps to work( EDIT: Problem is adobe flash plugins and Firefox). So for those in a similar boat lets sail to a solution.
Some luck today, Installed chrome and managed to get vistaprint (VP)online software to work. Firefox was balking at the, required, Adobe flash plugin install by the looks of it. Will revisit this in time. Chrome simply asked to install the plugin auto downloaded the apt, restarted and away we went.

My Workflow

My workflow worked pretty well. (two monitors, left DT, right VP layout software(ie chrome))

I created an export preset in DT for hi res and into specific folder.
On average this creates a 5-8meg file at A4 size, about right for my target book.
Made sure there was a style to remove watermarks etc.
Export from DT to photobook folder,
import to layout software,
place on page.

Tags revisited

Using the various collect images rules I sorted on specific tags in DT. Selected the image, checked it, added a further tag(photobookV1N1)..I was after a way of keeping track of which images have been used in which photobook. My actual tag was more specific than this but you get the idea. Just a label to uniquely identify this collection.
What would be nice would be a way to automate this a bit, use the export function to tag the image. Is this possible?
Maybe its a back to front workflow. Sometimes it was easier to:
tag(photobookV1N1) to the images as I was looking through various folders and tag collections. Then view them all together using photobookV1N1 tag rule. If happy, select all and do a bulk export(in which case the photobookV1N1 tag is already there of course). Switch over to layout software, import the images and place them.
while other times.. for example I had the book layout page all done bar one image and was looking for something to “fit” that spot. Find a DT image, tag it and then export it immediately etc

Workflow summary

This process allows me to delete the exported folder(which is quite large) once its all been uploaded and the book created. Thus reducing my personal storage requirements. I can easily recreate it in the future using the photobookV1N1 tag and bulk export because DT remembers all the modifications/processing.
I am pretty sure the print company keeps an “embedded” version on their storage facility. So if need be you simply go back there for future reprints. The files and layout do not need to be uploaded again.
It also means if I need to go the PDF way I know which images were used and again can do it in bulk. Sure the layout will have to be recreated.
I can also “detach” or remove the image from the books list. Say I decided not to use it in this book. Using the collections, rule, photobookV1N1 tag, I see all the images in that collection I then simply select the image and detach the tag, thus removing the photobookV1N1 tag. It is no longer associated with this book. In the case shown (green tree). Note that I have used this workflow to redefine this image. Its not really landscape, I removed the landscape tag, adding jungle, in its place.
The process is ongoing… happy tagging, happy printing, happy new year.