I found (and bought) a book called The Lyre-Birds of Mount Buffalo.

The Lyre-Birds of Mount Buffalo

It's undated. The National Library is unsure, but thinks it might have been published in the 1930s. The photographs are pasted onto the pages. (But they are still dot screen printings, not original continuous silver prints.) To me this suggests an earlyish 20th century printing, when printers were still finding it difficult (or expensive) to merge photos with text in a book.

It contains photographs taken by the legendary Guide Alice, pictured below.

(I think our friend Janet who goes camping on Buffalo each Easter ought to get out her clothes making equipment and come up with an authentic "Guide Alice" costume to wear when we go camping. It would be stunning. Since the photograph is in black and white, she could choose her own colours: the only guidelines being to be consistent with early 20th Century colours, and remember that Guide Alice was probably adventurous in choosing colours.)

In the book her clothes are described as follows:

Guide Alice in the costume she wears when mountaineering. She was the pioneer of fashion in walking-dresses on Mount Buffalo. Tourists know that this dress is ideal for comfort in climbing where the snow lies deep in winter-time.

Guide Alice

According to the Parks Victoria description of Guide Alice, this was the first pictorial book ever published on lyre birds.

Compare the excellent photo of a male lyre bird on the cover of the book (above) with my best photograph of a lyre bird (below). Guide Alice (Manfield) would most likely have been using plates of glass as negatives for her pictures, or sheets of celluloid. After each exposure she would have had to pull the square of film out of position and push the next square of film into place and remove a dark slide before she could take the next picture. If she was really modern and not too worried about picture quality, she might have been using roll film. The speed of her film might have been somewhere around 6 to 12  ISO. Most photography these days is done at around 400 ISO, and my camera can go up to 3200 ISO. This means that Alice's shutter speeds would have been around 1/30th to 1/4 of a second, whilst my shutter speeds are typically somewhere around 1/400th to 1/4000th (making it easy to capture moving birds).

I also have auto exposure and auto-focussing. With all those tools at my disposal, this is as good as I've managed so far. It's truly embarrassing.

Image:Guide Alice and The Lyre-Birds of Mount Buffalo

Alice's approach is described in the book:

Guide Alice, before the chick appeared, won the parent birds' friendship by patience and quietness - and the Mopoke call. She had failed to secure photographs by hiding near the nest, so, morning and evening on several successive days, she sat on a rock, in full view, and accustomed the wary birds to her presence; and always she mimicked the mournful notes of the Boobook Owl, "Mo-poke". This plan at last succeeded: a photograph of the hen bird was secured.

I think that's my problem: I haven't sat, morning and evening, on a rock making the "Mo-poke" noise. Fortunately, I can practice by listening to the recording here. Once I've got the noise right, all I'll need is a nice rock and a whole lot of extra patience.

Comments (8)
Anthony Holmes October 10th, 2008 09:07:21 PM