Birding, Photography and Photoshop

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions – and I hope that now I will finally make it into heaven because I held true to a good intention made a long time ago by taking my book club friend Evelyn and her husband to see the birds at SIBA.  This is a term coined by Keith – Stradnfontein Important Bird Area and a polite name for The Strandfontein Sewage Works:-)

Two amazing things happened as a result of this trip – the bird watching bug bit these two who thought that birds were just subjects to take pictures of  –  and I gained a coach in the form of Keith to show me how to use Photoshop.   So the passionate photographers embraced a new interest in birds while the passionate birder took a new look at photography and editing her pictures.  The birding that day was not the best I’ve ever had but for them it was magic as every experience was new.   I have now had three lessons and my mind is boggling.  I am dying to spend more time practising but my school duties prevent it.    Last night I was totally blown away by the power of the program – Adobe Photoshop CS5  – and had to say to Keith – enough already – too much information – let me master what I’ve learnt so far before going an inch further – wow!  But he has been careful to warn me about ‘cheating’ especially where wild life shots are concerned and of course I don’t want to re-create what I’ve seen for real – just to touch up  and also have fun.

On Saturday night Evelyn called and asked if I’d introduce then to Rondevlei.  I needed no persuading although they wanted a very earl start to get the ‘soft light’.    I managed to convince them that leaving at 6:30 in winter was a tad too early so we set off at 7 and arrived at Rondvlei to the stillest morning and perfect conditions.  We were the first people to arrive and didn’t see another soul for two hours.   The activity in the hide was spectacular.  Yellow-billed ducks, white faced ducks, Cape Shovellor and Little Grebes which I prefer to call dabchicks, were swimming and fishing and interacting with each other.  Spurwinged geese arrived on the scene and a purple swamphen strode across the opposite bank in full view and showing his iridescent colours but was disappointingly too far for good photographers.  “I’ve seen him right here in those reeds,” I said pointing to the area on the left.  The words were no sooner out my mouth when Evelyn said, “Look – there’s one here now!’  The cameras clicked excitedly as he preened and posed and looked at his reflection in the water.  A little malachite kingfisher also dropped by and perched on a stick before flying into nearby dry reeds.   So much was happening and my friends with their state of the art canons were loathe to leave to explore the other hides.  I left them to it and did a quick reccie to see if it would be worth getting them to move on – definitely it wasn’t!.  On my return I bumped into two bird club members who joined us in the hide.   Then the wind got up and it became extremely cold an unpleasant.  We packed up and went to the car for hot coffee and rolls and then I suggested SIBA and met with nil resistance.  It was a good move as in spite of the wind the birds were out in their droves.    But the flamingos were conspicuous by their absence.  Usually they’re on almost every pond and last time they were flying around all the time.   “Perhaps they’d were leaving and haven’t returned.”   But then we found them – all on one pond in a large flock of a few hundred.  K and E were over the moon and took some wonderful photies.  I was freezing in spite of reasonable insulation but K and E seemed oblivious to the icy blast that blew in when the Caravelle windows and doors were open and were happy to brave the elements outdoors too.   “Its all worth it for a good photograph.”  And good photographs we all got.  Keith was impressed with what my Canon Powershot SX30IS can do.  He is even considering getting one for Evelyn.

It was 3 o’clock by the time we got home and we were all keen to download the piccies and see what we had – and we were not disappointed.

Yellow-billed Duck

White-faced ducks

Malachite Kingfisher

Purple Swamphen Rondevlei



2 thoughts on “Birding, Photography and Photoshop

  1. Great pictures, Helen! I must practice with my new camera – I will be happy if my pics are halfa as good as yours!!


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