Mai Po – a bird free zone (almost)

I crawled out of my pit at 4.45am to meet up with John H at Mai Po. We were going to try for one of those spectacular Mai Po sunrises. Dawn over the gei wai. Except it was smothered in cloud. Hardly a scrap of clear sky to be seen, blue, red or magnolia. I grew up to loathe magnolia as a colour. It was the standard answer to “what colour shall we paint the walls, dear?” My poor father must have hated the sight of it. Most people had a tank outside to hold their central heating oil. We had magnolia paint in ours. No, really…..

I discovered today that amongst the many things I suck at, dawn scenery shots is another. I tried using the histogram to cover the full dynamic range in 3 frames. I would then blend them in CS6’s HDR Pro and produce a flawless work of artistic excellence. An epic fail. The clouds, damn them, moved. Not much but enough to give me nasty green and yellow fringes to my clouds. Delete.

We ended up dodging showers and looking for anything remotely photogenic, ourselves aside. But sate the audience we must. The hunters returned. Tired but not in the least bit emotional. Now enjoy the gralloch of the early morning shoot.


Channeldark If you ever wanted to know what badly done HDR looks like, here you are!HDR1 Rain and sun all in one shot.TowerHiderain Black & white bloom – the yellow was boringPlant mono




Mesembrius bengalensis

Mesembrius bengalensis

As John said, an extra time shot…… and arguably the best one of the lot – a fly!

And the yellow version of the much nicer monochrome.

Plant colour

If you knew the word ‘gralloch’, well done. In a just world I would send you a venison steak. But the world is not fair. Oh but we did see a Peregrine Falcon and that meant the morning was not a washout. Plus John and I put the world back in good order. Can’t be bad in 4 hours, can it?

26 thoughts on “Mai Po – a bird free zone (almost)

  1. I was led here by M.R. who admonished me never to leave a comment unless I wanted to. Well, I want to. I have no real understanding of what color ‘magnolia’ is but I liked your first photo and the b&w flower and especially the fly! As for your HDR I don’t think it’s so bad. Maybe too light overall.. But I too prefer the ‘natural’ light.

  2. I love the first one, its very atmospheric.
    I also agree with R’seas, regarding the HDR one. I don’t think it’s been overdone.
    Great selection of shots 🙂

  3. The second image gives a good impression of the early day and the fly is a keeper. I like the idea of seeing the yellow and monochrome side-by-side, to experience the beauty of each.
    Now off to find a deer and a sharp knife.

  4. When I read HDR, I thought there was an American president I’d forgotten about. I sit right this moment in the spot I smote a fly in one blow, then blew his defeated carcass to the kitchen floor. I had no idea he was so beautiful.

    • Well not all flies look quite so good but they are worth a second look before you strike at them. We have a battery powered mozzie bat that is both fun and lethal (to mozzies). Its worth a go. HDR was the one who met with Churchall and Stolin at the Typograd Conference.

  5. The second image is my favourite of this series. I can feel the mood and atmosphere of an early morning – not too light, not too dark. Nothing is worse than a too light morning or evening photo that ruins the feeling of dawn or dusk. My main point against HDR btw, generally speaking not related specifically to your post.

    • Thanks Sandra – the 3rd image is an in-camera HDR and of course only generates a jpeg to begin with. It is set to ‘natural’ but doesn’t match the 2nd one to me. I agree with your observation but it demonstrates the art of the possible, however grim!

  6. Never mind ‘gralloch’, you had me googling for HDR, Andrew, (High Dynamic Range :- photography or Human Development Report, United Nations. so I plumped for the first option, using my noggin! 😉 ) I am now clued up and appreciating the differences more. (in fact I must check my camera and see if there’s an option.) but before I do, you’d never get me up before 7 or 8am, as 4.45am is t’middle of the night in my book, Yellow Boring? next you’ll be saying the same about Magnolia, eh? *cough!!* 😉 xPenx

    • You plumped right, Pen. You should try 4.45 am. You would be amazed how therapeutic the dawn can be. Heals a lot of angst, watching the sun rise.

  7. I first met the word “gralloch” in Trailing the Giant Panda (1929) by Teddy and Kermit Roosevelt. (NOT a happy ending for the panda.)

    A nice potter about, but I haven’t downloaded my card. Such is sloth.

  8. As I mentioned on G+, I quite like the monochrome version of your flower. Looking at the color image gives rise to the desire to possibly see just a bit more hint of the green foliage in the B&W. Not much though. I just love the spiral pattern of the corolla the feeling of depth created in the center. I agree too that the little hoverer is delightful.

  9. Andrew, you are to be commended for the sunrise attempt just the same. One of the great things about winter, sunrises are at at more reasonable hour. The flower in B&W was worth the effort on its own I think.

    • Pre 5am starts are not something I relish Barry but once I am out I love the quiet of the dawn, broken by rapidly awakening wildlife. By 10/11am I’ve usually had enough.

  10. After my existential taxi ride this afternoon, all of these pictures are like a breath of fresh air. I don’t even mind the fakery and trickery one. That said, the Fly and the first one are my fav’s today. I rather love getting up very early when I have a mission, but I do sympathise about the lack of sunrise. In the past couple of years I’ve set my clock quite a few times to get up at some un-godly hour in the hopes of catching a splendid dawn, only to find a sky full of clouds instead. It’s a bummer. On the bright side, it’s always good feeling being up before everyone else – early and worm and all of that 😀

    • But when you get up early Lottie you don’t (I assume) then have to drive 40km. I could stay local but the wildlife has more variety at Mai Po – much like your taxi.

  11. I loathed magnolia. We had it on the woodwork (and the ceilings of course) because my mother thought it was to harsh. It goes without saying my paintwork is white but I have said it anyway.

    I like the first piccy. Magical. Ms Thicko here wants to know what’s wrong with the HDR image? It looks a lot better than many of the vastly over-manipulated ones I have seen. Or maybe that’s what’s wrong with it?

    I like the yellow pic better than the b&w. The colour distracts you from the fact that the centre is out of focus. Unless that’s how the flower actually looks? And the back of the fly is out of focus too. But there you go, I couldn’t take any of those photos in the first place.

    I tried to take some early morning pix the other day (we were up at 5 and off at 6), couldn’t get anything in the half light like your first shot, had to wait for sun to start rising. (Cue Rolf Harris, Sunarise in the morning… etc) I may eventually get a blog post up in the midst of my summer hours, to which I thought you were also succumbing.

    • The thing wrong with HDR image is that it looks unnatural. Is it what the eye saw? I hope not. Focus (and by extension out of focus) is used for effect – or it could be that my eyes are going or a third and real possibility is that Mother Nature grew it like that. I’ll ask her. I’m sorry, I used to quite like Rolf. But then he did Two Little Boys. Enough said. I am looking forward to your next blog post. Help launch August with a smile 😀

      • HDR always looks unnatural – I thought that was the point of it. For example, the ones that Leanne and Mike post. But had you not shown the first image I wouldn’t have sprung it for being manipulated.

        I can live with DoF out of focus, or in layspeak, blurred background. But as I need to spend all my time getting at least something in focus I’m not up to clever tricks.

        I liked Rolf in the days of Sun arise. I used to call it Sunderise for some odd reason, must have been his accent. Yes, TLB needs no words. Or music. Or anything. Rolf was a whizz with his drawings though, used to love watching that.

        No smiles promised. A rant on Clouds and a rant on roughy – with a few early morning pix. Oh and Pippa with flowers in his fur on his way to San Francisco.

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