Fooling Around on My Lunch Hour

Posted in Photography Tricks on July 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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Today at the office was a nightmare of server maintenance. The details are too gruesome to list, so I’ll spare you the geek talk and show you how I untwisted my brain on my lunch hour.

The first three images are from the Ontario Royal Botanical Garden in Hamilton. I visited my son and his family there with Eunie earlier this year.

The first two are of red leaves. The striking colour caught my eye, but as I snapped the images, I was thinking to myself that the composition wasn’t very interesting. So, how do you doll up a shot that has one interesting feature, but otherwise has little interesting about the way it is presented? I went back to my ancient darkroom trick, vignetting:

Red leaves at the Royal Ontario Botanical Garden

It takes only  a couple of clicks and moving a couple of slider controls in Photoshop to achieve the effect, so it’s no big deal to play with it until you have the look that you want. It is also great for portraits.

Here is another red leaf shot that has been ‘improved’ by light vignetting:

Red leaves at the Royal Ontario Botanical Garden

In the shot above the leaves are lit by the sun and I was shooting from underneath, so the intense colour is caused by the sunlight travelling through the leaves.

Still in Hamilton, here is an image of two water striders on the surface of a shallow pond. You can see the insects at the upper left corner, slightly out of focus, since the lens was focused on the bottom of the pond. What catches the eye is the shadows of the bodies of the insects and the huge distortions of the surface of the water caused by their weight depressing the water where their feet touch it:

Water striders and their shadows

The circular waves caused by their movement add to the effect.

This lovely psychedelic creature remind me of things that I see in my dreams. Yes, I do dream in colour – always have. I think that it is supposed to be a young giraffe:

Giraffe and turtle at Sedona Arizona

The image above is from Sedona, Arizona. Everything else is magical in Sedona. Why not giraffes?

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Grumpy? – Mellow Out With a Hula Hoop

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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I like to keep something handy that calms me. Valium works, but it’s a little too druggy to be popping one every time I get a little irritated or sad. My “Wonder Wall” (wonder how I’ve lived so long) where I hang a few hundred snapshots is a good relaxant. I can just turn my head and peer back into the past to see how blessed I’ve been.

Today, however, I found a little treasure on BoingBoing.net that will keep me off the mellow-yellows for a while. It’s from 2treehugginghippies, 14 year old sisters who “love YouTube“.

I can’t possibly say anything about this clip that you won’t get for yourself. So, sit back and chill out to something beautiful – Hooping to Geggy Tah’s Holly Oak Tree:

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A Powerful Blast from the Past

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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Once in a while somebody sends me something interesting for Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  Today this amusing bit of Madang history comes from David Watkins.

Though probably of little interest to those who have never had the privilege of living in Madang, it is, nevertheless, worth recording for posterity. Yes, I’m writing a book a day at a time.

Here is a shot from those that David sent. It is an image of the huge Niigata* generator set arriving on a barge at the Madang Power Station in 1980:

The huge Niigata generator arriving in Madang in 1980

THIS FROM DAVID WATKINS:

The photographs show the arrival of one Nigatta at Madang in 1980. They show the set in the landing craft and being pulled ashore through the bow doors. I assume that you can increase the size of the photographs sufficiently to see this properly.

Because of the size and weight of the set there was no crane available to lift the sets into the power station. The generator was removed from each set in Japan then the diesel and base were delivered in one piece of 60 ton weight. To move the set from the ship to the shore we used a Defence Force landing craft. In the bottom of the landing craft we made a runway onto which to drop the set then another runway on a concrete pad at water level on the side of the powerstation. Because of the size of the set and the runway the bow doors of the landing craft had to be left open. The journey from the ship to shore was done very slowly so as not to swamp the landing craft with the bow doors open.

Once to the shore 20t the wooden box was cut open so that slings could be attached to the set directly and the whole lifted with jacks to put 20t scates underneath. The runway in the landing craft and on the pad were joined together and the set pulled by turfers and chain blocks onto the pad. Due to the sope of the landing craft floor, the movement of the craft as the loading of the set changed and the bow door moving all there time we managed to squash some of the 20t scates.

With the set on the pad the whole was raised about 2 metres using numerous 20t hand jacks operated by eight people. There was no such thing as a hydraulic jack system with a seperate pump drive as is readily available now. The runway that had been in the landing craft was then moved to the front of the set at the powerstation floor, joined to the runway under the set, and the set moved forward into the power station. The set was then moved sideways, down about a metre, the runway removed and the set finally lowered into place.

This was repeated for the second set which was delivered a month later, time enough it was thought for us to at least move the first set off the concrete pad at the water level.

The work was actually carried out by Elcom (as it was then) staff. There were four expatriates and four local staff. All lifting and moving was done by hand using jacks, turfers and chainblocks with scates or pipes under equipment to move the equipment. The sets and associated equipment were delivered in 40 wooden crates ranging from 60t weight down. The generator weighed 10t.

The original order was for the sets and equipment to be delivered as a kit set that would only need to be assembled and take three months to complete. Somehow this was mixed up as we ended up with nothing pre-assembled but with 100t of steel pipe from 200mm to 10mm diameter all 7 meters long and 1000 flanges needing to be cut and welded. There was a mad scramble to buy extra tools, welding machines etc. and the work was finally completed nine months after the arrival of the first set.

I went over to the power station today to check on the status of the two Niigata gensets delivered in 1980. One of them was actually delivering power to Madang when I arrived. The other is presently being rebuilt.

Here is the control panel of the functioning Niigata genset:

The control panel of the old Niigata generator

And, here is the beast itself [extremely  loud, I might add]:

The still-functioning Niigata generator which arrived in Madang in 1980

Here is a little gallery of the other images that David sent:

The generation capacity of Madang, after years of irresponsible neglect, is finally being restored. It’s a slow process and requires the patience and support of the community. Power outages are still a daily (sometimes several times a day) occurrence.

There’s still a long way to go, but it is good to see progress.

* I’m a little confused about the spelling. On the web it’s spelled Niigata. David’s correspondence spells it Nigata. My comment is, “Who cares?”

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Two Bunnies in a Canoe and Other Curiosities

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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Once again, it’s time to ramble aimlessly through a few images that have caught my eye, but don’t seem to say enough to provoke a gush of prose from me. Just as well. The pictures tell the stories better than I can.

Our next door neighbour got a couple of bunnies some time ago. I think they were dreaming of raising the delicious little furry ones for an occasional treat, but somehow ended up with two males. Though they are useless for producing more bunnies, they are cute. Lately they have been lounging in the hot afternoons in the shade of an old canoe which is turned up on its side:

Two bunnies in a canoe

These bunnies are incredibly docile. I have little experience with rabbits that did not involve putting a bullet through them. Hey, we were hungry. These guys are exceedingly cute. When you hold one, you can feel its heart going thumpity- thump.

Under the heading of strange phenomena, we have this large red flower that popped up in our yard one day, seemingly from nowhere. Juli, our haus meri,   is forever finding interesting plants and bringing them home. She never mentions it, so we never know what to expect. I don’t remember seeing this one anywhere else, but then I haven’t been everywhere, have I?

Strange red flower that appeared from nowhere

The multiple-blossom bloom is about the size of a grapefruit and spectacularly red. The vegetation appears to make it some kind of lily. I’m far too lazy to search for it. If you know what it is, please leave a comment.

Sticking with vegetation, here’s an unremarkable image that somehow gets under my skin:

Three leaves

Tropical plants often produce leaves that change colour radically as they mature. Someday, I’ll have to get a shot of a mango tree when the new leaves are coming out. They are bright red. There are lovely bright green bushes that grow across the front of our yard next to the water (see the leaves in the next image). When the new leaves come out, they are a lovely yellowish-orange colour. I shot these three this morning by the light of the rising sun.

When I had the image above adjusted to my liking, I still wasn’t happy with it. It seemed too . . . clinical, as it it were a specimen shot. I tried a few things to juice it up, but nothing was working. Then I thought of an old darkroom technique called vignetting. It simply means to fade the edges either darker or lighter. In the old days, if we wanted to do it, we’d make a mask to hold over the photographic paper as it was being exposed. Holding the mask a few inches above the paper and waving it around caused areas of the paper to receive more or less light, according to the shape of the mask. Photoshop provides an easy way to vignette an image. In this case it worked a treat. It is a much more dramatic image with the darkened edges to frame the subject.

The last shot is a bit of a puzzle. I have not changed the angle. The water drops are underneath  the leaf. How they got there, I do not know:

Water drops underneath a leaf

I can only speculate that water falling on the leaf below splashed up and stuck to the bottom of the leaf. You can plainly see that the drops are much puffier than usual, because the force of gravity is pulling them away from the leaf instead of pulling them onto it. They are also drooping a little, since the leaf is not horizontal.

Two thoughts are competing in my head for attention. One has something to do with smelling the roses. That works for me, but a quotation from Kurt Vonnegut is nudging in also. He said, “I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”

The centre is boring.

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Cute Little Crabs

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 20th, 2009 by MadDog
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Monday morning I was entirely too lazy to get up in time to ride to work with Eunie. I slept in. About nine o’clock I went out in front of my house to catch a water taxi. It’s a hit or miss thing. It may take five minutes or an hour.

Fortunately the crabs were putting on a show:

Yellow clawed crabs

Everybody, of course, has seen images of fiddler crabs waving at each other. I don’t know whether the signalling in this case was amorous or pugnacious. It was interesting to note that all the time that they were waving they were also cramming food into their horrid little mouths. Waving must be hungry work.

Adding to the entertainment were a few bright red crabs which I’ve never seen before. The boat was just arriving when I began to shoot them, so this is not the best possible image:

Little red crab

It will have to do for now. Another day I’ll go out at low tide and try to get some better ones. Hopefully, I can get some video footage also.

Wandering around my garden this morning looking for prey, I spotted this red eyed fly which I promptly shot:

Red eyed fly

An interesting thing about these particular flies is that they will allow the camera to come extremely close before fleeing. The lens was only about 3cm from this handsome little guy when I snapped the shot.

I went searching for something interesting on the signalling crabs and got more than I bargained for. This video clip of “Lefty, the Fiddler Crab” is strangely mesmerising:

I don’t know if you can call it dancing and I doubt if the crab actually hears the music. Nevertheless, I watched it three times. Then I had to shake it off and get to work.

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When is a Photograph not a Photograph?

Posted in Photography Tricks on July 19th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I was out on Faded Glory  on Saturday, I brought along my Olympus SP590UZ superzoom camera. I love the long telephoto shots, even though the lens is, of course, not very sharp. What can you expect from a US$450 camera that claims a 26x optical zoom. Since nothing I shoot ends up being printed any larger that what will fit on a magazine page, it doesn’t worry me too much and I don’t need to worry about messing up a US$3,000 camera or having it stolen. I treat them as throw aways.

Sometimes, though, one wishes that the lens were a little sharper or the sensor a little less noisy. And then, sometimes, one simply botches the job. On Saturday, for instance, I had a setting wrong on the camera which caused the images to be much less than I’d hoped. For those who care I’ll mention that I had the camera set to aperture priority mode and the f stop was a 8.0. This caused two problems. First, as the lens closes down its sharpness decreases. Second, as there is less light at f 8.0, the sensitivity of the sensor is increased automatically causing it to get noisier. The result was grainy images that weren’t very sharp at all. That’s about as bad as it gets.

Still, there were some interesting images under all that blurriness and grain. I decided to finagle the snaps with Photoshop to see if I could get some visually appealing images out of the mess.

Is it photography?  Or, is it art? I’d say neither. They are derivations  of photographic images. I had a huge palette of colours and image manipulation tools available to me. I chose to use only the least obtrusive ones to save the images. Let’s see what came out of the experiment.

Here’s a shot of Kar Kar Island  looking positively ominous. It should, since it’s one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes:

Kar Kar Island as art

This is a shot from Tab Anchorage  of part of Madang town with a ship anchored next to Kranket Island:

A ship with Madang in the background and the Finisterre Mountains in the distance

If you click to enlarge any of these images you will see that they have been severely mauled by Photoshop filters and image controls. They are no longer strictly speaking, photographs. This is the Finisterre Mountains  as seen from Tab Anchorage:

A panorama of the Finisterre Mountains as art

This shot is spoiled because I needed just a tiny bit more space between the canoe paddle and the left edge. It’s taking the Rule of Thirds too far:

Canoe art

On the way back home, I stopped for this shot of the blazing sun reflecting off of the water of Madang Harbour  near the airport:

The afternoon sun near the Airport in Madang

I combined the shots above with others that I massaged in this little gallery:

I’ve reduced the sizes on the gallery shots so that they will fit more comfortably on most screens.

I guess my photography lesson for today is, if you’ve got an onion, make onion soup. Or, never delete an image unless it has nothing to say.

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The Poisonous Playground

Posted in Dangerous, Opinions on July 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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Maybe it’s the weather. I don’t know. I seem overly grumpy and prone to critical thinking lately. Here is how it looked this morning out over Tab Anchorage:

Brooding sky over Tab Anchorage

You’d be grumpy and out-of-sorts too if you had to see that and compare it with the same image in the post here.

But, that’s not what I’m here to complain about today. If fact, I have something far more serious to complain about. Have a look at this:

Poisonous Playground

On first inspection, it seems to be only some rather decrepit looking playground equipment. It’s not the seemingly poor condition of the equipment that’s the problem. Mould will grow on anything and everything here. Things get mouldy and nasty looking very quickly. If you stand still long enough mould will glue you to the ground. No, it’s not the mould that I’m complaining about.

We went through a mild season of hell when our friend Val Jerram was arranging for the free playground equipment to be sent up through Rotary International as a gift to the children of Madang. As with most such operations, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Finally however, the playground equipment was installed and happy kids were using it.

So what thanks for such generosity was provided by the so-called caretakers of our town?  See the nasty looking jumble of colour a few metres from the playground equipment? That is the horrible, disease-laden garbage from the town market a couple of squares away.

What a perfect spot for it. It’s right next to the lily pond and just at the end of the botanical garden. If the kids get bored playing, they can probably find a snack to keep their energy up.

No wonder I’m grumpy.

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