Blue Mountain Majesty

Posted in Photography Tricks on March 25th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I leave my house in the morning I can see the Finisterre Mountains as I come in on the Airport Road. That is usually where I decide if I am later going to turn on Coronation Drive to grab some images. If the mountains look crisp and blue, then I’m going to have a fifteen minute detour on the way to work.

If you look carefully at these images (and you know what you’re looking for), you’ll see evidence of heavy-duty, industrial strength Photoshopping. These are not so much photographs as interpretations of photographs. In each shot, I was listening for a voice. When I heard it, I amplified it with Photoshop filters and adjustments until I could hear the voice clearly.

Machinegun Point is one of my favourite shooting spots. I’ve never gotten an uninteresting image here. Every day it’s different:

Machinegun Point with the Finisterre Mountains in the distance

Further along I caught this group of early morning gawkers enjoying the view across Astrolabe Bay:

Early morning outing to see the Finisterre Mountains across Astrolabe Bay

Shooting more toward East, I caught this pedestrian looking back over his shoulder at the insipid sunrise:

Pedestrian admiring the sunrise across Astrolabe Bay

Up by the Coastwatchers Monument, two canoes drift on the calm waters of Astrolabe Bay:

Early morning canoes on Astrolabe as seen near the Coastwatchers Monument

Looking back over my shoulder at the mountains again, I decided to pull into the Coastwatchers Hotel and walk up to the restaurant for a better angle:

The Finisterre Mountains as seen from Coastwatchers Hotel

I particularly like the way the vegetation turned out in this image. I decided, after a few experiments, to abandon realism altogether and go for a lush look. If you click to enlarge and look at the vegetation, you’ll see what I mean.

My little excursion this morning and the few minutes that I spent massaging the images set me up for the day and put me in a good mood.  When I’m bored or depressed (Eunie is in Port Moresby for a Chamber of Commerce meeting), a little Photoshop break cheers me up.

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Naturally Seven

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Opinions on March 24th, 2009 by MadDog
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I always have to keep in mind that we are usually about two years behind pop-culture, so anything that I write about that concerns music, movies, personalities and such is going to seem dated. Ah, well. What can I do about it?

Anyway, I caught Jay Leno last night and was blown away by Naturally Seven.

Pardon me if you’ve already heard all about them, or you hate Rap more than I do and you can’t stand them, or your internet connection is too slow for YouTube.

Apologies out of the way now, I hope you can sit back and enjoy Wall of Sound:

There is a better clip of it here, but I can’t embed it in the post because embedding it has been disallowed.

The sound in my head is a weird mashup of Manhattan Transfer, Seal (the early stuff), and Steely Dan (the middle stuff). Manhattan Transfer held the a cappella high ground for a long time (though they normally performed with instrumental backup), but hardly anybody remembers them now. My favourite was Birdland.  I can hear distinctly Steely Dan harmonies in some of Naturally Seven’s numbers. I’m not sure where Seal comes in, but when I listen to Naturally Seven, Seal keeps creeping in around the edges.

Here is a heady rendition of Feel It in the Air Tonight:

If you listen closely, you can tell that they are creating the instruments without artificial augmentation. There are ways to start with the human voice and run it through some fancy electronics to modify the waveforms to mimic musical instruments. I don’t think these guys are cheating, at least not much.

If you poke around on YouTube you can find some other clips of Naturally Seven. The live performances are not as nice, I think, because these guys really need to perform where it’s quiet. There is one live performance that is a blast. It’s Feel It in the Air Tonight  performed ‘spontaneously’ on a Paris Subway. Though it has the feel of spontaneity, the camera work gives it away as a staged performance. It is nearly as much fun watching the faces of the passengers on the subway as it is to listen to the music.

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Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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When I got home from work the other day the neighbours had something unusual in their small haus win* near the water:

A floppy-eared Papua New Guinean bunny

Yes, one does not see rabbits every day in Madang. I learned that they had purchased two rabbits at the Mt. Hagen market for K6.00 each. They looked quite healthy to me. They were very tame. The kids were mauling them without mercy. Here is the pair of them, a male and a female having a light snack:

Bunnies having their dinner

I came across a couple of items on the web about raising rabbits in PNG. One concerns taking pressure off of tree kangaroos by assisting villagers to raise rabbits for food. The other is from the Tenkile Conservation Alliance. It also discussed rabbit farming as a way to conserve native wildlife.

Their gigantic floppy ears remind me of the huge White-tailed Jackrabbits that Eunie and I hunted for food when we lived for a summer in Montana. We were dirt-poor. We couldn’t afford to buy meat, but we could afford to buy .22 Magnum cartridges for my Marlin rifle with the big ‘scope. I don’t know how many of these Lepus townsendii ** we shot that summer, but they were getting pretty scarce in our hunting range by the time the leaves were turning:

Lepus townsendii - the White-tailed Jackrabbit (summer coat)
That was the summer (1963) that I learned that Eunie, at least for stationary targets, was a much better shot than I. It was humiliating. We practised at the landfill, shooting rats. She got bored and started pot-shooting seemingly at random. I asked her what she was doing. “Shooting flies.” she mumbled as she squinted through the scope. “Sure you are, babe.” said I. We walked up to a cardboard box. She said, “They were right there and I shot them. They disappeared when I shot.” Thinking that the recoil was preventing her from seeing the fly fly, I examined the three holes in the box. Around each one there were splatters of fly goo – pretty as you please.

I didn’t know whether to be proud that I had taught her to shoot or terrified that I had created a monster. I qualified expert on every weapon that I was given when I was in military service. But I could never beat Eunie on stationary targets. I did get to the point that I could drop one out of two of these stringy lop-ears on the run up to about 50 metres. It kept us alive.

I love bunnies, they are so soft and cuddly – and delicious!

* A haus win is a small shelter with a wooden floor set off the ground on posts. It usually has a thatched roof, but no walls. It keeps the sun off, but lets the wind flow through.

** Credit: photo by R. B. Forbes, © American Society of Mammalogists

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More Fun with Google Earth

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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Well, It’s Satuday and guess what. Nobody wanted to go out on the boat today. What a bunch of slackers and hung-over sleep lovers!  Woe is me.

So, I came to the office to play with Google Earth for a couple of hours. Strangely, I can think of a million places to look at while I’m doing something else (like working), but when I sit down at the computer my mind goes blanker than usual.

Still, there’s the old favourite – find someone’s house. We still own a house in Brownsburg, Indiana. Would you like to buy it on the cheap? Here it is at 8080 East 300 North:

8080 East 300 N, Brownsburg, Indiana, USAIt’s the middle driveway of the three.

Google Earth’s Street View has been a bit controversial. This usually happens when the little Googlemobile catches someone being arrested, leaving a naughty shop (you know the ones I mean – I can’t use the word for fear of being banned from millions of computers), having a car parked in an inappropriate place, or just generally loafing around on the boss’s time. I used the Street View feature to get a shot of the house:

Want to buy a house real cheap?It won’t win any photography contests, but hey. As with many unfortunates such as ourselves (poor us), we still owe more on the mortgage than the house is worth. As long as it keeps standing, we’ll let the renters pay off the loan.

How about something a little more exotic?  How about Jerusalem:

JerusalemThat’s actually rather stunning. Click it to enlarge. It appears that the shot was taken in the morning. Their are deep shadows in the rugged landscape to the west of the city.

Hmmm . . . Yes, got it! The White House:

The White House (guess which one)Please don’t use the images in this post to plan anything.

Okay, I’m running out of ideas now.

But, I can never pass up a chance to poke a little fun at the Goofyest City on the Planet. Yes, you got it in one . . . Las Vegas:

Las VegasIt’s mildly interesting to me that this shot bears a middling resemblance to an image that I captured from a commercial flight only about ten months ago. I was riding in a aerial cattle car from Las Vegas to Boise, Idaho. I wrote about it in The Long and Dusty Road to Boise:

If you look closely, you can see the big hotel with the golf course to the left (the dark squarish shape). It’s the same spot that is the dark shape to the North of the airport in the satellite image.

If you find something interesting on Google Earth, leave a comment with the link and your remarks and I’ll post it on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

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Google Earth Learns About Madang

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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I’ve always been disappointed with the satellite images on Google Earth for the area around Madang. Until today. I don’t remember how I drifted to Google Earth again. Something on another web site caught my eye, I suppose. Anyway, I downloaded the latest version and cranked it up to see if Madang looked any better.

WOW! You can see streets and everything. If you try to zoom in to the level of seeing who is parked where, it gets a little fuzzy, but you can see the colours of the cars just fine. No registration reading yet. Can’t see people very well. But Madang is finally coming in crisp and clear:Madang, Papua New Ghinea - most of the town on Google EarthOf course, the first thing anybody does with Google Earth is look for his house. Ours was easy to find. Just south of the end of the airport runway, north of the big pile of wood chips and directly across the harbour from the main wharf:
Our house in Madang is directly across the harbour from the main wharfHere is a shot of Nagada Harbour and the Jais Aben Resort:
Nagada Harbour and Jais Aben ResortThe top island is Leper Island and lower is the north tip of Kranket Island. In between is Magic Passage, one of our favourite diving locations. The reefs are very nicely visible:
Magic Passage - one of our favourite diving locationsThose familiar with Madang will recognise this location immediately. It is the north end of the golf course (at the bottom) and the Coastwatcher Monument at the upper left sticking up like a big white rocket ship. It looks to me as if this shot was taken at about 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning:
The Coastwatcher Monument and the North end of the Golf Course in Madang, Papua New GuineaHere is a nice shot of Kar Kar Island. It’s too bad that the fringing reefs are not visible. Also the cloud cover hides the giant crater where the active volcano sleeps (for the moment):
Kar Kar Island from Google EarthThe shots of Madang were taken before last July. I can tell because the huge mango tree that was behind our office is still visible. We chopped it to make room for an office extension.

It’s cool to join the rest of the world. Now, we too can send someone a link to say, “Here is where I live!”

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Australia On My Mind

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 20th, 2009 by MadDog
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I got this nice shot of the Finisterre Mountains  across Astrolabe Bay  this morning on the way to work. Dirving to the office takes only about twenty minutes and is always a pleasure with this kind of scenery to distract me. It has absolutely nothing to do with Australia, but it is pretty:
A Finisterre Mountain panorama

I received my new Science magazine yesterday. It’s the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, of which I am a member. Long story there. I have no idea how I became a member. I never applied for membership. I somehow became a Professional Member and started receiving the bimonthly magazine about two years ago. I’ve received several notices that my membership has expired, but I can’t afford the US$200+ a year to maintain it. Nevertheless, they still keep sending me the magazine. Go figure.

Australia is on the far side of the Moon
This is a pretty cool error on their part. I pass the magazine on to several other science-oriented friends. Is it honest for me not to tell them? I’ll have to think about that sometime. Maybe after I’m dead.

Anyway, I glanced at the cover and instantly saw Australia. Okay, okay, it’s not perfect, but it’s sort of Oz shaped. The Japanese are doing a bang-up job of getting snaps of the far side of the Moon with Project SELENE. You can find some cool images here.

Did I mention that I once saw Australia up in the sky? Readers who come back time after time for fresh applications of my unique torture methods will have seen this image before:

Australia is up in the sky

Okay, that’s enough of Australia for today.

On the way past the neighbours’ house the other day I noticed that one of the girls had dressed up their very nice red dog in a red dress:

A red dog in a red dress
I’ve always been partial to red dogs. Here’s an interesting read on Dog Coat Colour Genetics. I read on another site that a red coat recessive dog (whatever that is) does not have a single black hair on its body!  Imagine that. It makes me wonder exactly how that they proved it. Did someone examine every hair on a red dog?

How can I get a job like that?

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Fun With Old Lenses

Posted in Photography Tricks on March 19th, 2009 by MadDog
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Since I am  a technology pack-rat, it’s not surprising that I have a copious supply of old lenses laying around. Today, I wondered if I could beat the macro setting on my Canon G9 by supplementing the magnification with an old lens.

Here is an old movie projector lens. It is the one that gave the best results:

An old movie projector lens and a flower - Fun?
This is the first shot that I took. It’s not very impressive:
The flower through the old lens - MAGNIFICATION!I haven’t fiddled with any of these shots with Photoshop. The sharpness is just what came out of the camera.

Here is a little gallery of other things I tried.

Need I say that if you try this, you should be very careful not to allow anything to contact the surface of your camera lens.

The technique is simple. First set up your subject so that you can comfortably hold your camera in one hand while holding the old lens in the other. Line up the lens on your camera and the old lens on the subject. You will probably have to fiddle with distances between the subject and the old lens (usually very close) and the distance between the lens of your camera and the old lens (probably as close as possible without touching).

You will find that the distances are very critical. You can also play with your zoom to see if you can get more magnification.

Since these lenses are not made to work together, some won’t work at all. Another problem is that the usual depth-of-field is greatly reduced; you can only get a very small plane of the image in focus.

Still, I did manage to get some amazing magnification.