Tickle Me – Again

Posted in Mixed Nuts on October 18th, 2008 by MadDog
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Had a hard day out on the water, so I don’t have much time to write. What a shame. I’ll entertain myself by showing you some photos that I got this morning in – guess now – My Garden. Where else am I going to go?

Yes, I’m back to the bugs on flowers thing again. I’m saving the star of the show for last.

These little flies or whatever they are seem to be attracted especially to this particular flower. On any given day one can find them on almost every blossom:

Little flies on a flower

Nevertheless, they do sometimes have relatives over. The big flies are hard to catch with a camera. They are very skittish. The little fellow seems to be hiding from the big black monster:

Big fly on a flower

 A careful observer will note that I got the colour balance all wrong on the first photo. It has way too much red. The one above is the correct colour for that flower. I’m too lazy to fix it. I will leave it as a demonstration of how not to do it.

A week ago I hacked away at some bushes near the water that were beginning to block my view of the harbour. I had a look at them this morning. It appears as if I’m going to be hacking away again soon:


Jenny, one of my readers, commented that the other name for the Sensitive Plant is the Tickle Me plant. How quaint. I’ve showed you how the leaves collapse at the merest jiggle.

Here is a blossom and a couple of developing seed pods:

The Tickle Me Plant - Blossom

The seeds themselves, when they mature, are truly nasty characters. As you can see, they are bristling with little barbs that are incredibly effective when it comes to sticking to your clothes, or your skin, if you’re unlucky:

Tickle Me seeds - Don’t get them on your clothes


They are nature’s Velcro.

Except that they are even better.

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Man, I HATE It When That Happens!

Posted in Humor, Opinions on October 17th, 2008 by MadDog
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Somehow – I don’t know how – the ability for you to leave comments got turned off on some recent posts. I only noticed it this morning.

Heaven forbid that you should be prevented from participating.

This is what I felt like when I noticed it*:

Your host, MadDog

It’s fixed now, but my face seems to be frozen permanently in this grotesque mask of anger.

Actually, a couple of people have mentioned that it’s a marked improvement.


*Try the Photoshop Liquefy filter. It’s a tonne of fun.


Shoot the Moon

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 17th, 2008 by MadDog
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This morning Selene was doing her silly daytime tricks just as the sun was coming up. I’m usually so focused on other images that I forget to look for her.

Here’s Selene peeking out from behind some coconut fronds:

The moon, clouds, and coconut fronds

A little different angle and some more telephoto boost gives us this. It’s a good one to click to enlarge:

The moon again

I’m never one to ignore a sunrise, so here’s Yet Another Gorgeous Emotive Madang Eastern Sunrise (I’m going to start using the acronymic version of that – YAGEMES [pronounced yah-GEE-meez]):

Yet Another Gorgeous Emotive Madang Eastern Sunrise - YAGEMES [pronounced yah-GEE-meez]

Hey, it’s not any sillier than most acronyms. The above was a three-shot panorama blended by Photoshop.

Here’s a single frame showing how the many colour controls available can generate a completely different rendition of the same scene:


Some of you are already fans of Photoshop, so I won’t waste time singing its praises. For those of you who are not familiar with the Adobe photographic tools, I’ll show you two screen shots of the ones that I use the most.

Here is a screenshot of Adobe Bridge with the shots from today open on the “filmstrip” at the bottom. You can see one of the frames enlarged so that I can judge if it is something worth of further work:

Adobe Bridge with Camera RAW files open

For the technician/artists out there, I’ll mention that Bridge does an excellent job with RAW files from just about any camera and opens a RAW image directly into the Photoshop Camera Raw filter so that you can make any conceivable adjustment that you might desire. (If that’s gobbledygook to you:  RAW files capture the information for each colour and keep the colour channels separate from each other, giving a huge range of possibilities to the artist. It’s the One Big Secret for creating good underwater shots.)

Here is the frame from the filmstrip opened in Photoshop:

The same frame now opened in Photoshop - ready for adjustments

The fun of fooling around with Photoshop can suck up an inordinate amount of time. I have had to exert the miniscule force of my pathetic self-discipline in order to keep myself down to an hour or so a day.

It beats watching reruns of The Simpsons.

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Stupid Camera Tricks

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 16th, 2008 by MadDog
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Sometimes I wonder where by brain is. I wrap my head with my knuckles and get that hollow sound. The most obvious answers escape me like a wild hare spying a shotgun in the gentle hands of the Governor of Alaska.

Today someone was home when I knocked. I wanted to get some shots of the overnight raindrops on the flowers in my garden. Knocking out the background of a shot can be done in Photoshop with simple tools, but it can be laborious. It takes up valuable writing time.

I remembered a little bird in Honolulu. Don’t ask me why. Okay, it was because I wished I could have knocked out the background, but it never looked right.

I thought to myself, “How could I get a black background without any work?” This is a concept that always appeals to me – the maximum result with the minimum effort. It’s probably the primary reason that I’m not rich. Other people use the word “LAZY” to describe people like me. I don’t resent it. Remaining among the living while being artfully slothful is a knack.

Anyway, as I was dressing to go outside, I selected one of my many black t-shirts (yes, an affectation, I know) and a little tangerine coloured light began to blink somewhere back in my occipital lobe.

I wonder . . .

Too, Too Red

YES, OH YES, by the sweet, pale glow reflecting from Billy Bob Thornton’s toenails, It WORKS! (I was going to say The Budha, but I was afraid it might offend someone.)

Nevertheless, I would say that the shot above is a failure. The background is black alright, but the red on red on red thing leaves nowhere for interesting details to go. It’s photographically correct. This kind of flower almost hurts your eyes, it’s so monochromatic. If I had to title it, I’d call it Too, Too Red.

The next effort pleased me more. It took less than half the time it would usually take to do this kind of thing. All of the background that I didn’t want was knocked out by the simple expedient of holding a black t-shirt behind the subject matter and tilting it so that it caught as little light as possible:

The white Somekindof flower

I don’t know what this next flower is called, but I really like it. It massages my whimsy. The black t-shirt worked a treat on it:

The Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster flower

I couldn’t be happy with flower pics without including my mysterious orange lilies. Here again, black in back is a snack:

The Orange Lily that Ate Cleveland

Time for one more. These look a bit like miniature frangipanis. I don’t know what they are. I gotta get a flower book:

The George Washington High School flower

I’m going to get a small piece of 25mm plywood and paint it flat black. Maybe I’ll paint the other side white – that might come in handy sometime. It would be so much easier than trying to hold a t-shirt up behind a bunch of flowers while snapping a shot.

It might also look slightly less stupid.

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Photosynth – Images of the Future?

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 15th, 2008 by MadDog
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I’ve been tripping out the last two days on Microsoft Photosynth. Come and join me.

If you’ve been reading Madang – Ples Bilong Mi for a while, you know that images are a big deal for me. I get great satisfaction from taking photos, fiddling with them, and sharing them with you.

It’s a whole new ballgame now. We can now move around inside of our photos. If you saw the movie Déjà Vu starring Denzel Washington, you may remember the zingy computer thingie that allowed them to look into the past and see all kinds of images from different angles.

You can now do this on your computer at home. Just the images thing – not the time travel thing (sorry).

Hold onto your seat and have a look at this:

The controls are simple and intuitive. Just click on the image and start fooling around with it. Click and drag moves you around. The wheel on your mouse zooms in and out. There are other gadgets in the upper right corner that you can play with. I’ll leave it to you to have fun finding out what they do.You will notice, according to the speed of your connection, that it takes a while for the images to become clear. The faster your connection, the faster the center of the montage becomes sharp. The same is true when you zoom in. It has to catch up with you. I sat in my office chair and took 128 shots at 1600 x 1200 resolution and uploaded them to the Microsoft Photosynth site.It took about two and a half hours to upload and process them over our new super-secret semi-broadband connection. I left it going when I went home yesterday evening. When I got in this morning it was saying that it was finished and I could view it. I was blown away!

There are many more possibilities than my silly example shows. You can go inside buildings, see close-ups and about a zillion other things.

For instance, if you were a real estate agent, you could snap a few hundred shots in a house that you’re trying to flog off on some poor sap, skipping over the shots that would show what you do NOT want to be seen.

I suppose that if you were a doctor, you could use a laparoscopic camera to shoot inside someone’s gizzard and then post the Photosynthed (I just coined a new adjective, I think) montage on the internet for any specialists who’d like to take a wild guess as to what that big black thing is attached to the inside of the fellow’s stomach.

If you want to try it for yourself, it’s really quite easy. You need only three things to get going.

First, you need a connection that is faster than a modem. The site says that you need a broadband connection, but that covers a lot of ground. You might even get away with a modem connection if you keep the number of images low and shoot them a lower resolution (maybe 640 x 480).

Next, you need a Windows Live logon and password. You can get that, if you don’t have one already, on the Photosynth site itself.

Finally, you need a bunch of photos that are connected so that you could lay them out on a table and the images would overlap. There are more ways to do this, but it’s good to start with something simple. You could just stand in one spot and snap away while turning slowly. One caution is that you need to lock your exposure on the first shot and keep it locked for all of the shots. You could have as few or as many as you like – the more, the better. If you have lots of images with a lot of overlap, it makes it appear more seamless.

If you do a Photosynth project, please comment or email about it. I’ll put a link to it on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

UPDATE:  I discovered, when I sat down at my desktop computer and looked at this post, that it will probably require you to install an 8+ megabyte program called PhotosynthInstall.exe before you can view the scene. I already had it on my notebook where I do my posts, so I didn’t think of it. Sorry. If you don’t want to be bothered, just skip the install. You won’t be able to see the ‘movie’, but it’s no great loss.

Chianti Classico

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 14th, 2008 by MadDog
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Today’s point-and-shoot cameras are fantastic. I’m constantly amazed by what I can do with a camera that cost a fraction of what I used to spend.

However, even the best of them can’t cope with situations where the laws of physics are against you.

Take the example below. Claudia Spitzl snapped this shot in the cellar of a famous Chianti  vintner in Tuscany when we travelled with her and Helmut in 2004:

The original shot

Well, it has a big problem which Claudia couldn’t do much about. It’s dark because the camera flash was too dim at the distance of the primary subject. Light dims at the square of the distance, so it gets weak fast as you move away from your subject with your flash. Therefore, the hallway behind the man looks completely black.

I remember fondly our visit to the winery and I was wondering how much hidden information might be in the darkness. So, I decided to see if I could salvage this shot.

Firing up Photoshop, the first thing to do is to increase the exposure. This brightens the whole image equally. It is an improvement:

Increased exposure

However, we can do better. Photoshop has a cool adjustment called “Shadows/Highlights”. On opening that, we get an instant and dramatic improvement. We can now see what was buried in the darkness. A few tweaks of the slide controls later we have this:

After the Shadows/Highlights adjustment

The sunglasses had to go along with the extra light at the upper edge. A little fiddling with the Clone Stamp Tool to pick up blobs of the image from one place and put them somewhere else got rid of those distractions. Also, the fellow’s shirt seemed too bright for me, so I used the Burn tool to darken it a little:

Removing distractions

Now that I see it up on the blog, I’m not happy with the way I darkened the shirt. It is not evenly applied. It seems to have a darker spot in the center – the eyes pick it up as something wrong. I’ll just pretend that I did it purposfully to give an example of how NOT to do it.

I decided that I wanted to see more detail in the hallway in the distance. I used the Horizontal Perspective slider in the Lens Distortion filter to make the hallway look as if it were closer. I also cropped the photo to remove the closest red barrel ring. It seemed distracting to me:

Changing the perspective

It’s a sublte effect. Compare the “closeness” of the hallway and the wall at the end. In the second shot it looks closer.

Finally, I got rid of some pipes on the wall and the extra light in the hallway. I also changed the colours of the fellow’s clothing a bit. As a last touch, I reduced the intensity (saturation) of the colours in the whole scene and boosted the intensity of the red only:

The finished shot

Most any image processing program will have similar controls that you can apply to your photos. Before you delete a photo that seems hopeless, but evokes pleasant memories, take a few minutes to see if you can salvage it.

You might be surprised.

An interesting aspect of this is the whole issue of whether you can trust what you see to be true. I could argue with this fellow about when he lost his sunglasses. “Look at this, mate. You didn’t have them when we were in the cellar.”

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Any Old Port

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 13th, 2008 by MadDog
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I’ve been having some fun over the last few mornings shooting the ships and buildings across the harbour from our house. Dawn seems to be the most interesting time. The sky is juicy with yummy colours, the lights are still on, and the water is calm and glassy.

Here’s a shot that shows how NOT to do a panorama. This was made from three exposures. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my tripod head perfectly level, so I got this curvy horizon that I have not found a way fix in Photoshop:

Across the harbour at dawn

The next shot looks like a crop of the one above, but it’s actually made of three separate exposures glommed together. One is underexposed, one is normal exposure, and one is overexposed. These can be combined in Photoshop (called HDR) to bring out details that would otherwise not be seen. If you click to enlarge, you’ll see a surprising amount of detail for shot taken about 200 metres away with a relatively inexpensive camera (my Canon G9):

A ship across the harbour from our house

This next one is interesting also for the level of detail. You can again see the curved horizon because my camera was not perfectly level. Click this one to enlarge and you’ll see some remarkable detail:

Yet another harbour scene

I’m also putting an even more detailed version of this photo here. If you want to see some guys walking around on the dock at the far left, then click on the link above.  Your browser should load it in a separate window (or tab). You should then be able to scroll around to see the detail. As I mentioned, you can see some fellows walking around on the wharf at the far left. You can also see some flying fox bats cruising around in the sky above the buildings. I have to admit that I was a bit amazed at the amount of detail contained in the image.

If you like, you can right-click on the image in your browser (the full-sized one) and choose “Save Picture As . . .” and put it on your computer wherever you like.

Tôi sẽ nhìn thấy bạn vào ngày mai.

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