Photozoom – The Next Cool Thing

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 31st, 2008 by MadDog
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Well, Microsoft has zapped us again with another übercool photo gizmo. It’s called Photozoom.

You have to get a Windows Live logon to make Photozooms, but anybody can then view them over the web.

Please note that the first time you try to view one, you may have to install Microsoft Silverlight (Microsoft’s super-clone of Adobe Flash). If none of this means beans to you, don’t sweat it. Just click to install Silverlight, if you like. I seriously doubt that it will cause your computer any discomfort. You may as well go ahead and do it, because more and more juicy things are going to be showing up on the web that require the Silverlight thingamabob.

This morning I walked out in the street and took this shot. I then went to the Photozoom site and created an account (no funny business here – just give it a name). I then made an ‘album’ of one photo and gave it a name. Then I uploaded the photo. They even give you the code you need to imbed it in your blog or website as I have done here. It’s all so easy that I was a bit dumbfounded. I kept thinking, “Something’s not right here. This is going too well.”

Here is what it looks like:
The controls are very intuitive. Click and drag on the image to move around. Use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out. Try the little button that says “Full Screen Mode” when you mouse over it. It’s incredible!According to the speed of your connection, you may have to wait a few seconds for the image to clear and become sharp. When zooming, you’ll eventually come up against the limits of my camera to form a sharp image on only a few pixels.I’ve heard some people say that the Windows Live thing is not very interesting, because there’s not much there. I beg to differ. If you dig around there is some amazing stuff. I showed you Photosynth a while ago – now Photozoom. What next?

Just keep it coming.

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The Illustrated Man

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Tattoos on October 30th, 2008 by MadDog
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My interest in tattoos was stimulated, as is sadly the case with many soldiers, by copious quantities of alcoholic beverages. A fellow Huey pilot’s father owned a tattoo shop. We got tanked up one night and went over to his dad’s store front to have a look around. I’d never been inside a tattoo parlour before.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, my friend said he needed some practice and offered me a free tattoo. In my stupor it didn’t occur to me to ask him about his qualifications. At least it was painless. I walked out at about four in the morning with a poorly rendered black widow spider on my shoulder. It looked like something you’d get at Folsom Prison.

What does a tattoo look like up close?

I’m about to show you:

Up-close tattoo

There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? That’s a little corner of a maple leaf from my O Canada  tattoo.

My daughter-in-law, Tamara, has designed nearly all of my tattoos, despite the fact that she loathes tattoos. She is a talented artist. Her book illustrations are truly beautiful. She insisted that, if I were to get tattoos, they should be good art.

Here are the four designs that she offered to me for my Dancing Dolphins  tattoo that completely encircles my left upper arm:

 Dancing Dolphins A

Dancing Dolphins B
Dancing Dolphins C
 Dancing Dolphins D

And here is the original art for my Happy Zen Fish  on my left shoulder. It was my second tattoo – designed to cover up the black widow spider. Many first tattoos end up being covered over by something less obnoxious:

Happy Zen Fish

My request was simple. I said that I wanted something Yin-Yangy, an oriental sea motif with a fish in it, and it had make me feel happy every time I would see it in the mirror. Well, maybe not so simple. Her first offer was perfect. I couldn’t think of a thing that I wanted to change.

I’ll also show you the original art for my Turtle Totem  tattoo. It’s on my bum, which is becoming more elephantinely wrinkled year by year, so I’ll spare you the indignity of viewing the turtle where it lives:

Turtle Totem

You’ve already seen the Twin Triggerfish  on my back, so I won’t repeat them here.

But, the tattoo that I love the most is on my right upper arm. It’s based on this photo:

Eunice Messersmith

I took this shot as I was testing a new camera. Eunie had just turned twenty-one. We’d been married a few months. She was sitting on the couch sewing. I pointed the camera at her and said, “Hey, babe.”

From a technical standpoint, this frame is pretty awful. Yet, way down deep inside, it defines me as a photographer. It’s easily the most important photograph that I’ve ever taken, and I have little hope of ever topping it. Ah, serendipity.

I remember clearly the very sad day when I realized that I had lost the negative. I have but one original print left which I protect as the treasure it is to me.

Every photographer strives to create images that provoke an emotional response in the viewer. After all, what good is an image which, when you look at it, you feel nothing?

Here’s a photo by Lina, a friend who was with us up at Blueblood one Sunday. Lina wanted a photo showing Eunie and her doppelganger  on my arm:

Eunie and Me

Yes, my hat does have a story, and I will tell it to you soon, but I need to wrap this up so as not to keep you too long.

But, I have one last story about the tattoo of Eunie.

During CWA Quiz Nights, there are many prizes awarded for silly things – it’s a tradition. One night Brian Lusmore was presiding and he offered a prize to the first man to bring him a picture of his wife. As a few men were reaching for their wallets, I leapt from my seat and ran to the front, rolling up my sleeve as I went. I arrived first as the crowd erupted in giggles and guffaws.

I won the prize.

But, of course, I had won a much finer prize in 1964.

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Brightening Dim Memories

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 29th, 2008 by MadDog
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In the old days of labouring for hours in the dark with smelly chemicals a poorly exposed photograph was a trial to be endured. If it had no great importance, it would be tossed on the floor to be swept up later, when the lights were on. If it were a frame that must be printed – the contents of the image being too important to throw away – it meant hours of mostly guesswork fooling around with the only three things we could change: the grade of the paper (its intensity of contrast), the time of the exposure under the enlarger, and the time of development. Those with fancy labs and cash could do other things, but these are the basics.

Today it’s easy. I’ll show you five photos taken several years ago with a point and shoot camera. All five had some problem. None would have looked good in an album. All five could be saved from the darkroom floor, so to speak.

Here’s Buck the Horse. Buck pulls a fancy carriage around town all day and night. He looks tired. I would be too:

Buck looking a little dim

As you can see, the original shot is very poorly exposed. The cause of this is that the subject is at greatly varying distances from the flash. We covered the inverse square rule before. What is twice as far away will be four times as dark.

Composition aside, it would have been better to shoot the horse and carriage from the side so that most everything was more or less the same distance away.

A few minutes with any decent photo management program will allow you to fix such a photo. I use Photoshop, but there are very excellent free programs available. If you’re on a budget, I’d suggest the open-source program called The Gimp. You can download it and install it on your computer for nothing (yes, legally). It does nearly everything that Photoshop does.

Here’s Buck feeling a little brighter:

Buck feeling brighter

The next shot is underexposed. That means it didn’t get enough light. It was probably because the camera wasn’t very good at guessing, by ‘looking’ at the entire scene, how much light to let in. It was fooled by the bright sky into giving the building less light:

Old church on Monument Circle in Indianapolis - underxposed

There is a simple trick that you can try to fix this before it happens.

With most cameras, you can point the camera at the building in such a way that there is no sky visible in the frame. Try pointing the camera farther down so that no sky is showing. Now press your shutter button down to its first position. This causes the camera to set its focus. It also fools the camera into setting an exposure value that is correct for the building only. Then, while holding the button in the first position, move your camera back up and complete your composition of the frame. Finally, push the button hard to make the exposure.

This method also works well when taking photos of people who are backlit. It’s best to avoid having a bright background behind your subject, but sometimes it cannot be helped. Just point your camera at the feet and do the half-way-down thing with the button. Hold it there, point the camera back at the person and finish the shot.

You should also remember that it is almost always better to force the flash on your camera to fire when taking photos of people outdoors. Your camera may not want to fire its flash, but there is a setting that will force it to. This is critical when taking photos of dark-skinned people. Show a little respect and set your camera to forced-flash or “Fill Flash”.

You can see here that I’ve fixed the frame by increasing the exposure values after the shot was taken. It was easy. I had to select the sky and darken it to avoid losing the sky altogether:

Old church on Monument Circle in Indianapolis - fixed

The next shot is much the same thing, except the sky dropped out completely:

The Indiana State Capital building looking forlorn

I fixed the exposure of the buildings and they came up nicely:

The Indiana State Capital building looking horrible with the fake sky in back

Never satisfied, I then proceeded to ruin the shot by adding some fakey clouds. I leave it as an example of what not to do.

It’s too bad that I cut the top off of this frame when I took the shot. I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. This is the beautiful Scottish Rite Cathedral (Masonic) in Indianapolis. In this frame, it’s a bit underexposed, taking the lustre off of the wonderful, creamy white oolitic limestone from Oolitic, Indiana, the small town named after the product. The building also seems to be leaning back as if it’s about to fall back into the parking lot:

The Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis

Fixing the exposure was simple – a few clicks and adjustments. Taking some of the lean out is also easy. Most programs have some sort of lens distortion feature that allows you to make hung-over buildings feel better. In the darkroom we used to do this my propping up one end of the frame that holds the paper under the enlarger. We’d adjust the angle until the vertical lines were more parallel:

The Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis - no longer leaning back

It would have been a fine shot if I hadn’t been inattentive to the composition in the first place.

I remember going to dances in the magnificent ballroom in this building when I was in high school. My grandad was a 47th Degree Mason (I think that’s what it was called). He insisted that I join the Order of DeMolay. I gave it a go, but Freemasonry didn’t stick on me – nothing against it. I suppose I simply didn’t ‘get it’.

Anyway, on to the last shot.

I’m not much of a flag waver. I do display the flag of Papua New Guinea at the top of my blog, but that is not a political statement. It’s only a small token of my gratitude to a country that has become my home – and will remain so until I die.

Here’s a shot taken inside the magnificent war memorial building in Indianapolis. It’s too bad that we have to have wars. There seems to me to be some horrible flaw in the way we’re made. I also find it sad that we build heart-breaking beauty into our monuments to war. They should look like a pile of stinking, smoking rubble with body parts sticking out and babies screaming.

We remember all the wrong things about our wars.

Anyway, I digress. This is a horribly underexposed shot of the interior Bellum Sanctorum (or whatever they call it – my high-school Latin was fifty years ago). There is, appropriately I guess, a humungous “Old Glory” hanging there.

Unfortunately, the bright star light fixture fooled the camera into not giving enough light to show the incredible interior of the vault:

The inner vault of the War Memorial in Indianapolis - underexposed

Again, a few clicks and it’s fixed:

The inner vault of the War Memorial in Indianapolis - corrected

If you click to enlarge, you can see the beautiful details. There is a little motion-blur (camera shake) caused by the long exposure, but we can’t do much about that after the fact.

When you’re going through your photos to separate the trash from the treasure, don’t throw away a sick frame that contains a memory that you want to keep.

Give it a little medicine.

Ihre Kamera lässt Ihre Augen schöne Gedächtnisse gefangennehmen.

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A Puzzle in the Sea

Posted in At Sea, Humor on October 28th, 2008 by MadDog
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Not a very imaginative title, but hey.

Let’s talk about Little Pig Island.

Yes, there probably are pigs on Little Pig Island,  as most assuredly are there people, whereas Pig Island  has neither pigs nor people (go figure). We’ve been over most of that before.

Little Pig Island  is situated snugly between Pig Island  and Leper Island.  Pig Island  is to the Northeast and Leper Island  is to the Southwest. A really fit footie could probably lob a pigskin to either without breaking a sweat.

No, there are, to my knowledge, no lepers on Leper Island,  though there used to be when it was a leper colony a long time ago. There may, in fact, be lepers abiding there, but the island is no longer named after them. It’s just a leftover; not the island’s real name anyway.

(By the way, people with Hansen’s Disease prefer not to be called lepers. I certainly do not blame them. I apologize for using the term in this post. I think that they prefer the term “Hansen’s Disease Affected” – a bit awkward, but carrying less historical baggage. So, if I am offending someone, I am sorry, but please note that this post is categorized HUMOR. Humorists are supposedly allowed to spout politically incorrect speech, so long as they are smiling when they do so. I am smiling now.)

Only a few people have recently moved onto Leper Island.  It probably has pigs, unlike Pig Island,  which, to my knowledge, has neither pigs nor people, as I said before.

So, Pig Island  and Leper Island  – on either side of Little Pig Island  – are both uninhabited, or nearly so in the case of Leper Island,  being only recently occupied by a few land-poor souls.

Pig Island  and Leper Island  are both pretty big while Little Pig Island  is teensy-weensy – a mere speck of ancient, rotted coral. It’s so tiny that you’d hardly notice it at all.

Here’s a chart to help you figure it all out. You’ll probably need to click it to enlarge:

A chart of the area of mild interest

You can see that Leper Island  (Paeowai Island  on the chart) and Pig Island  (Tab Island  on the chart) are both quite large compared to Little Pig Island  (Massas Island  on the chart).

I should mention that the Admiralty Chart  names are for stuffy, constipated people who like to be called “Skipper” or “Ensign Bowles-Sykes” or some such rubbish. Such people are quickly run out of Madang on a rail. We use the local names.

Got all that? Go back over it, please, until you’re clear. There will be an examination later.

Now, the question is:  What, in the name of sweet reason, are all these people doing on Little Pig Island ?  Have a look:

The festering mass of humanity that is Little Pig Island

It’s chock-a-block. It’s wall-to-wall. It’s teeming. You can’t spit without hitting your neighbour. There’s not enough room to swing a dead cat. Et cetera.

Remember, these people are not reality-TV clowns pretending to be in the pernicious pit of poo. There is no TV production catering company to serve them California Cuisine when they’re feeling peckish. There are no air-conditioned Airstream caravans in which to lounge about while smoking, snorting, injecting, or utilizining other orifices to take into their spirit depleted bodies various exotic dopes. There is no ground for gardens. There is no potable water. There is no electricity. There’s no satellite TV, for pity’s sake. How do  they survive?

All romantic hogwash about the idyllic existence on a luscious tropical island would be forgotten like a bad movie as soon as your tummy started to rumble like a 747 and your throat felt as if a large, lethargic lizard had crawled down it.

We pass close to Little Pig Island almost every Saturday.

We just shake our heads in wonder.

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Cute

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts on October 27th, 2008 by MadDog
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You know those cute kitten websites where you can find sickeningly cute photos of baby cats by the thousands. People print them and hang them up next to their desk at their offices to lighten the load.

I can’t stand them – the cute kitten photos, not the people who hang them.

But, I’m feeling less cranky and irrationally opinionated for some reason this morning, so I’ll offer my own cute photos.

Want a cute cat? Here’s Fanci:

Fanci the cat

We came home from holiday one time to find that Juli, our haus meri had decided that she needed a cat. We’ve always had cats around. I like them and they keep the rats down to an acceptable level.

I like the way Fanci’s tongue is rolled up in a little “O” beneath her pink nose. That seems to pass for cute, eh?

Did you know that some people can do that and others absolutely cannot? I can do it, but it makes my tongue hurt. I read somewhere that it’s genetic. If you can’t do it, it’s not your fault – it’s in your genes. How nice. With all the horrible stuff toward which your genes can predispose you, there’s one that’s absolutely harmless. You’ll probably never suffer because you didn’t get the “Roll My Tongue Into an O ” gene.

I feel a little more sentimental about the next shot. It is, of course, our good friend and long-time dive buddy Carol. With Carol is Bunny2 (we called her Bunny for short):

Bunny2 and Carol

Sadly, Bunny2 made it only to about six months before falling victim to Parvovirus. We had given her all of the injections to prevent it. Not a single one of her litter survived longer. I hate Parvovirus.

We had a beautiful, sweet-natured dog named Bunny for thirteen years. It was hard when we lost her. Here’s a photo of Bunny the first towing a friend at Kranket Island beach:

Bunny the first and Britta

It looks cruel, but she loved it.

I used to think it was silly the way people who had no children at home would treat a pet almost as if it were their child. That was when I wasn’t in my 60’s and my son wasn’t half a world away.

Okay, dogs and cats are sometimes very cute. I admit it.

Babes are cute too. Here’s a couple of cute babes.

Meet the Eunice Messersmiths.

Confused?

Well, that’s not surprising. They are both named Eunice Messersmith:

Eunice Messersmith and Eunice Messersmith

It seems so odd that I sometimes think of this baby as my first great-grandchild. You see, Juli has been very much like a daughter to us. She raised her own children in our house, we paid their school fees (there is no free education in Papua New Guinea), and we’ve gone through all the trials and tribulations of raising children – for the second time – as a family of sorts. So when Juli’s daughter had this baby, I felt like a great-granddad.

I won’t have any trouble remembering her name.

Isn’t life funny?

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Pig Island Oddities

Posted in Under the Sea on October 26th, 2008 by MadDog
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Yesterday was our regular Underwater Saturday. There was a big storm on Friday night. The weather was nasty and grey on Saturday morning and stayed that way all day.

We were looking for a sheltered spot to escape the big rollers coming in from Astrolabe Bay.  It’s nearly always calm in Pig Bay,  so we headed there at a crawl.

Here’s a GPS display of where we went (you will need to click on the image to enlarge it):

GPS Display

I’ll explain a few items on the chart for those who are interested. The chart is a screen capture from a Humminbird 987C. The display above was actually taken at the dock in front of my house. I just moved the cursor to the spot that I wanted to display. You can see that the depth under the transom of Faded Glory  was seven feet at the time – about mean-tide. It might go up or down about 1.5 feet from that.

The course and speed are meaningless, since the boat was stationary.

Ignore the time. The unit was purchased in the USA because it’s much cheaper there. The company punishes you for this by limiting the time zones that you can select to those in the USA. As if that’s not enough, you can’t display anything in Metric measurements. We certainly wouldn’t want America getting onto that bit of gold!. This is done primarily so that they can charge Australians and others on the metric system an extra US$2,000 for the unit and protect their “you’re not Americans” distributors. This seems very cheesy; so much for all the hooey about free trade.

The temperature is that of the water in front of my house. It’s about what you’d want for a warm bath. Again, it’s American style. It would be 32.8° C in the normal world. If you’ve never bathed in tropical waters, you owe it to yourself to do it while you can still enjoy it.

You can also see the distance from my house in statute miles. You could walk there in less than an hour if you were Jesus. It also shows the bearing from my house – the direction that Jesus would walk if he were using a compass.

The bulls-eye thing is the spot where we dived. The straight line extending from it to the southwest is the direction to my house.

You’ll note that we use a local name for the island. We call it Pig Island  – it’s Tab Island  on the Admiralty Charts.  You can also see the location of a shipwreck – the Copal.

Land is yellow. Shallow water is blue.

You can now read a GPS screen as well as anyone.

So . . . what did we see?

Not much. The water was disgusting. I did manage this shot of an old Cesena fuselage that was dumped here. It sat in a shipping yard for years until the owner forgot about it and the shipping company needed the space. Somebody hired a helicopter to dump it at Pig Island  as a dive attraction. It’s not very attractive:

The Cessna fuselage at Pig Island

I remember sitting on Faded Glory  with Jan Fletcher years ago. We heard a helicopter coming and looked around. Suddenly it flew over the top of the coconut trees only a hundred metres or so away and dropped the fuselage in the water with an enormous SMAK  like the world’s most painful belly-flop. All we could do was stare at each other in puzzlement. Then we started laughing our heads off. Serendipity strikes again.

I did manage to get a couple of shots of these weird transparent shrimp (Periclimenes holthuisi).  In this shot, you can see a female carrying eggs. The egg mass is the creamy-white blob in the middle of the body. If you click to enlarge, you can see the individual spherical eggs:

Glass shrimp with eggs

Here’s a shot of another individual – maybe a male:

Another glass shrimp - maybe a male

To give you an idea of the size, the length would be about the width of your thumb.

It’s a nagging worry to me that things that look as if they were made by the glass-blower at a carnival should not be living. How does that work?

Somebody is bound to ask. There are no pigs on Pig Island.

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Melbourne’s Finest

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on October 25th, 2008 by MadDog
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Yesterday I offered to you three images from my visit to Melbourne last year. Today I’ll slap you with four more. We’ll start out where we left off – with the train:

Mirror Worlds

The shot above would be nothing at all without the dark arrow piercing the scene. It intrudes. It menaces. Yet, contained within the unknown blackness there is a mirror world. This was another frame that I nearly deleted.

It always pays to stop and pay attention. You may have forgotten why you took a photo a year ago. Or, you may have had no clear intention. Still yet, your mind may not have been telling you all there was to say about the scene at the time – your subconscious takes command of your hands and your finger lingers over the shutter button until the moment is right. And – you wonder why.

The message of the image eluded me until I stepped away from the computer to do something across the room. I turned around and saw it from a distance – without the details that I had been concerned about getting just right. The message was clear – Mirror Worlds separated by a gulf of darkness. Duh! Why did it take me so long?

The next one is more fun. I know some cities in which you wouldn’t point your camera at a cop. The least you might expect is a caution. These fellows were having none of that. As our merry troupe passed we waved and I snapped:

Melbourne’s Finest

No deep meanings here that I can see. Sometimes it’s just for fun. The mood becomes the message instead of the other way around. As Freud said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

But, my, oh my, this next one is loaded. I don’t remember what this big skull image was all about. I often wander aimlessly without knowing what I’m looking at.

There are several things that amuse me about this shot, aside from the obvious:

Fair Way - At All Times

First, there is the question of the message of the skull. Let’s set that aside because I don’t know – aimless wandering, remember? Nevertheless, it is what it is.

Click it to enlarge so that you can see the details. Now you can read the sign from which this image gets its title; Fair Way – At All Times. A bit of irony? Maybe.

Look at the young woman. She’s way off to the side of the frame and facing away from the skull as if she is poised to escape. Yet she seems nonchalant. Or, possibly she’s blissfully unaware of what’s behind her. Or maybe that she’s seen it, but she . . .

Hey, wait a minute! Find your own meaning in the image – if, indeed, there is one for you. Why am I showing you this stuff, anyway?

I should shut up and just give you the pictures.

Well, I have one more from beautiful Melbourne. Ian Dosser was a best mate (and still is) when he was here in Madang with AUSAID as an Advisor to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. I’m proud to count him as a dear friend. Truth is, I miss him – especially his humour and good-heartedness. If I were ever in trouble with the fuzz, this is the guy who I’d want to cuff me:

Good buddy Ian Dosser

This one’s for you, Ian. Give Liz a hug for me.

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