Ali’s Roos – Guest Shooter Alison Raynor

Posted in Guest Shots on December 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sometimes an image has nothing at all to do with photography and everything to do with the subject. A wonderful example of this is the stack of shots which I received a few days ago from my friend Alison Raynor of Queensland, Australia. You’ll find Ali here as the guest shooter in several posts. Ali lives in a magical place and has what seems to me to be a magical life. I think that these images, taken at long range from her veranda, support my somewhat romanticised vision of her habitat. I’ll let Ali explain:

I know that there is no quality to these photos at all, but the subject matter and sharing these incredible moments with you is what is important. Taken from the veranda on max zoom – they were not good and so I played with them in my Mac Photoshop . These juvenile male roos were playing at being the “big boys”. They would fight to the death in a real battle. The big buck at the right of this picture is the boss man, big daddy, and he is overseeing the young ones. The 3rd photo cracks me up. I would love someone to write a caption. Number 5, standing on their tails to do battle, you don’t often see it let alone get the privilege of wrapping your shutter around it. Hope you like them Jan. They are really only for you to look at and enjoy.

Well, I’m certainly not going to keep these to myself. Within the constraints of the image quality of consumer grade “super-zoom” cameras, these are beautiful shots. The extra-long zooms lenses on some cameras loose a great deal of quality when stretched to their limits. They yield usable, but not sparkling images. I’m happy to live with this, considering that an equivalent 600-800 mm zoom lens mounted on a high range digital SLR camera would set me back a significant portion of my yearly income. I would have to give up eating.

Ali did a good job of cleaning up the images. The only thing that I did was to run a noise filter and then balance them so that they are more or less the same tone. Colour noise and fringing are real problems with these super-zoom images, so I followed Ali’s lead and reduced them all to near monochrome. The roos are the story, not the photography.

Here’s “big daddy” supervising a sparring match between a couple of youngsters:

And this is the classic “boxing kangaroo” pose:

The boxing kangaroo was featured on the flag of the Australian entry into the Ameraca’s Cup race in 1983. I remember driving through the Ramu Valley in that year, listening to the race on the radio and cheering Australia on. It’s also used on the flag of the Australian Army soldiers clearing mines in Afghanistan.

This is the one for which Ali would like a caption. Care to leave one in a comment?

That shot really captures a moment.

Here’s another one worthy of a caption:

I don’t even know what to say about this one:

How can they do that?

Finally, when they tire of the game, they hop away.

I remember Eunie telling the story to anyone who asked us how we managed to convince our eleven year old son, Hans, to go peacefully off to Papua New Guinea. Hans had only one request. He said that we could go if we promised him that he could go to Australia and see kangaroos in the wild. His favourite childhood toy was a fuzzy kangaroo.

We kept that promise.

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Guest Shooter – Pania Brown

Posted in Guest Shots on December 21st, 2010 by MadDog
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Tonight it’s my pleasure to bring to your screen a young photographer who is learning the craft. Pania Brown and I have been corresponding on Facebook for some time concerning photographic techniques. When Pania started her studies for a Diploma of Professional Photography, I suggested that she gather work from her assignments and others from her favourites collection and send them to me for a Guest Shoot. I really enjoy giving people what is sometimes their first exposure on the web.

It’s our great fortune that I’m not in a writing mood tonight. I’m still digesting the events of the last few days and bracing myself for the Christmas holiday. So, I’ll let Pania introduce herself and present her images along with her comments. I’ll jump back in at the end.


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My name is Pania Brown (nee Williams) and I am a proud ex MK (Missionary Kid).  It’s been 23 years since I left PNG, but I still call it home.  I consider myself blessed, for my formative years were spent growing up in a beautiful part of the world.  My first 9 years were lived on a variety of remote village mission stations out on the Ramu River,  and then I was gifted with 5 delicious years from the ages of 9 -14 exploring all that the lovely Madang had to offer.  For me the memories are vivid, full of colour and movement.  For me it will always be a magical place that time forgot.  It is of course all a matter of perspective, and as a child I focused not on the relative isolation that my poor mother must have faced.  I worried little for the pesky weevils that had once again invaded the flour.  Nor did I lose any sleep for the safety of my father as he traversed the swollen flooding rivers, avoided the crocodiles, bull sharks, snakes, spiders and other incredible creatures that lurked within the jungles.  It concerned me not that the truck was bogged, or that the next plane in with all our food supplies had been delayed for another 3-6 weeks by bad weather.  Such concerns were not for me to concern myself with, for as a child for there was always fish to be caught, friends to spend my time with, fresh tropical fruit to be picked and coconuts a plenty. For me the experience was one of total adventure, of true fun and exploration – everything that an ideal childhood should be.  On return to Melbourne (Australia) at the age of 14 I struggled greatly to adjust.  For me the reverse culture shock was extreme.  My beautiful outdoor playground and reef was replaced with trains, buses, tall skyscrapers, millions of people – a relative concrete jungle with danger on every corner.  I yearned for the blue of the ocean, the colour of the reef and the simplicity of life in a land that commercialism hadn’t quite invaded…  but that was 1987 –  perhaps it’s not the same any more, but for me time has stood still.

These days I call Townsville home in the beautiful Far North of Queensland.  We have a lovely home perched on the edge of a river.  I find myself surrounded once again by stunning examples of natures finest.  I decided recently to do something that I have wanted to do for years – a Diploma of Professional Photography.  It’s a far cry from my day job which is founded more in operations management, recruitment, reporting and meeting KPI’s. I claim to be no expert by any means and there are many more gifted than I, but to tell a story and to capture a memory is the greatest gift of all.  One that I hope to share with those that I love and hold most dear – and hopefully to extend to those that I am fortunate enough to call friends as our paths cross in life.

Jan has kindly invited me to submit a guest shoot on MPBM with a few samples from my recent assignments.  This is indeed a great privilege and a great honour as I know full well the calibre of his reading audience and the high regard with which he is held, so thank you for sharing your wonderful wall with me Jan.

The first shot I have included is of a beautiful Frangipani flower – it reminds me so much of life in PNG.  Very simple, but the colours are like a delicious bowl of tropical fruit – thus it’s common name I guess – “fruit salad plumeria” –  almost looks good enough to eat, but I can tell you from childhood experience they taste like “beep beep”

“True Balance” was a bit of fun, a Sunday afternoon project during a beach walk with my family.  I spent ages playing with this one -a simple stack of washed beach rocks towered up and balanced precariously as the waves threatened to knock it crashing into the foam while I darted in and out of the waves and avoided dunking my camera in the sea.  I can still hear the giggles and the yells of “No!” as I got the last shot and a big dumping wave washed it all away.

“Nature’s Treasure” was taken the same day and I love the fragility of this tiny perfect shell cradled in my little daughter’s hand.  There was no way she was going to let this one go – even whilst I tried to capture the image she clung tight and squealed when the waves got too close and threatened to wash her new jewel back into the sea from where it came.  I remember well the beautiful shells we found in PNG and that same feeling I experienced as a little girl when a lovely cowry shell caught my eye, and for a moment I had a tear in my eye for my little girl was experiencing that same wonderful gift of God’s finest creations.

The next group of shots were taken in one of my latest assignment submissions.  The project with which I was charged was to shoot a variety of images for a magazine shoot – to reflect “a sense of place” – to capture the essence of Townsville in a handful of shots.  So I give you now a quick visit to my lovely home town.  I hope one day you will venture here too, for it like Madang is a beautiful and relatively unknown part of the world.

I’ll start you off with a lovely view across the bay – shooting back across the water and looking towards Castle Hill with the cheeky Red Baron bobbing in the foreground.  Castle Hill is an iconic Townsville landmark.  There is a strong hill climb culture in this town – new comers are challenged to climb the slopes, whilst many locals are amused by these silly antics and still proclaim that there is no need to climb that which one can drive up in a car.  After 4 years living here I finally mustered the courage to climb the hill and now climb it weekly.  The sense of accomplishment is fantastic and invigorating, some would even say therapeutic.  There are many that run, cycle or climb it regularly and it is considered by many to be a ritual or a right-of-passage to be considered a true local.  The Red Baron is a lovely old floating bi-plane that offers scenic tourist flights over our fair city and Magnetic Island.  It is a pleasure I am yet to experience, but the looks on the faces are certainly priceless as it does low fly-overs and buzzes the unsuspecting tourists lying on the beach.

Next stop is the deliciously cool and invigorating “Strand Water Park”.  It can only be described as a colourful explosion of bright colours.  Thousands of mega litres of clean water cascade, squirt, spray and pour from every corner of the playground.  This image freeze frames the lovely water, the motion is stalled for a brief second but the squealing and delight of dozens of children still continued as the water dumped out of that fantastic big bucket and onto their heads.   It’s how we came to live here, with the prospect of new jobs we came to inspect this new town – our three children agreed unanimously that this would be a good place to call home as nowhere else had such a fabulous water playground.  They were right; it’s been a fantastic place to take our visiting friends and relatives and is always talked about long after their visits.

In completing this project I was trying to capture not only the classic and iconic landmarks of our town, but to also capture random snippets that “didn’t quite fit’.  This shot of the delightfully French inspired canopies and wrought iron light fittings in downtown CBD Townsville doesn’t quite fit with our theme of tropical palm trees and old Queenslanders and reminded me much of downtown Paris.  Perhaps Townsville is a big Shabby Chic, but I was intrigued all the same that I could create an image of one town that looked more like another.

Next stop a quick shot taken under the Bowen Road Bridge.  Relatively tranquil but I loved this shot as it creates a sense of remoteness when in fact right behind that wonderfully talk brick tower is a modern and bustling housing estate.    I loved the reflections and quiet peace in this shot when in reality, above me on that giant bridge thundered hundreds of trucks, buses, cars and roaring motorbikes.

The mystical wall was another location that many have inquired about.  For me it was a bit of an Alice in Wonderland moment. I wonder, I wonder, what’s behind the wall?  in fact there is an old run down red brick building that used to be a convent but the building is now quire derelict, and the yards are now cluttered with old broken car bodies, boats, building materials, but from this angle it could take you anywhere.

The shot of the mystery swimming man was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.  I giggled with glee as I realised I had caught him mid motion, totally focused on each stroke.

And finally I leave you with one of my favourite shots – “Townsville Pier by Night”.  The gorgeous blue is striking, the lens flare a total fluke but I was so happy to have captured a special moment with my beloved husband.  A delicious and rare moment of “two” in a busy life of “five”.

Thank you for sharing my journey, perhaps one day if you are passing through you will stop for coffee and enjoy the view from my veranda as I do . . .  until then God Bless.  May you enjoy every day as if it were your last and treasure most the moments spent with those that have been given to share your journey in this life . . .

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As a middling good amateur photographer, it is interesting to me to look at Pania’s images to see if I can think the way she was thinking when she tripped the shutter. In each of the images I fancy that I can determine how she was giving voice to the vision. I see a good eye for composition, nice use of the rules without making the rules the point of the image. Certainly, I see things which I might have done differently, yielding a different vision, a different voice. Photographers love to look at the images of other photographers. I’ve seldom encountered criticism, but often answered very pointed questions. We are, in our way, very geeky. That’s what makes it fun.


Aussie Flag Over Bribie Island – Guest Alison Raynor

Posted in Guest Shots on December 6th, 2010 by MadDog
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A few days ago Alison Raynor sent to me some long-promised skydiving shots. Toogoolawah up in Queensland in Australia is an action centre for skydiving. Ali is a great source of beautiful photographs and amusing subjects. She has had some very nice Guest Shots on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi. I’m happy to bring you this great story of skydiving in words and images. My thanks to Ali once again for giving me a break from navel diving.

I’ll let Ali tell it:

I took these photos at a Ramblers Display team jump at a Bribie Island community event. Doug Stewart is jumping the Aussie flag and has been doing this as part of the team for about 20 odd years. I think of him as “Fearless Fly.” The huge flag with all its lead-shot weight is packed very carefully into a big bag and clipped to his harness which hangs off his tummy. He lugs it all into the plane along with his parachute rig on his back and after his parachute is open and is flying safely he deploys the flag and weights. Nine out of ten times he lands it on the target in some really “tight spots.” This is one of those tight spots. It’s a postage stamp sized beach with a huge jetty on one side, the Bribie Passage (deep water channel complete with a large flotilla of small ships) on the other and a rock wall with about 500+ people looking onto the beach. There are also giant pine trees. Did I mention the raging SE wind blowing in off the sea? Anyway, these blokes are seasoned old skydiving pro’s with not one dare devil amongst them. These are calculated events. After weighing up all situations and risks the answer is usually . . . “Geronimo!”

The Demo team has jumped into many situations over the years and this was just another day’s work really.

Doug flies a large canopy designed for accuracy rather than speed. It is more manoeuvrable, controllable and much more forgiving on landing.

Dave and Sarge land and wait for Doug and the flag to touch down. Egon, the ground crew rushes to the target to assist Doug on landing.

Doug drifts down. Ahhh, the concentration!

And down . . .

Not yet . . .

And down

The little bit of yellow in the left bottom corner is the edge of the target (not bad accuracy,considering the conditions). The lead shot bag is about to hit the sand and Doug will hit the ground almost simultaneously- note the distance to the ground – it’s all maths for Doug from here really. The bag and harness on the front of Doug is the “flag bag”. He deploys the flag after his parachute is open:

Doug was dragged base over apex while the other two tried to fight their way out from under the billowing flag.

Both Egon and Sarge missed Doug completely as they were enveloped under the flag . . . ha ha!

Sarge is also running to help Doug hand when he lands. It is called “catching” and is also done when tandem jumps are landing in stronger winds. The aim is to grab a steering toggle and pull it out to full length, so as to collapse the canopy and prevent it re-inflating in the strong wind and dragging the pilot, but guess what . . .

Egon fights his way out of the flag and comes to the rescue as Doug digs his knees in to fight being dragged. Meanwhile Sarge is still lost under the flag and Dave is looking and laughing at the circus.

I may have gotten some of the images attached to the wrong captions. I wasn’t quite sure about it. I think that I have the sequence right, but I know little about skydiving. Ali will let me know if I got them mixed up.

Ever since I did my first skydive in Cairns I have wanted to do it again. Since I am going back to Australia again next year, I plan to visit Toogoolawah with my friend Val Jerram who also wants to do some jumps. She has been hang gliding, something which I have not yet done. I was jealous. Now I am even with her. She’s done the hang glide and I’ve jumped out of an airplane. I’m sure that she wants to get ahead of me again in this crazy race.

It’s gonna be fun!

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Mind Bending Colour – David Bryan Lile Guest Shot

Posted in Guest Shots on December 2nd, 2010 by MadDog
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Finally, someone has sent something interesting which allows me to crawl, all pale and creaky, out of my navel for a while for a bit of sun. Ah, fresh air! I bet it smells sweet. Hey, it’s pretty nice out here. Maybe I’ll stick around for a few days and see what happens.

Our Guest Shooter today is David Bryan Lile. I stumbled across David via one of those serendipitous “friend of a friend” interactions which sometimes produce surprises which fall outside the proverbial box, er . . . that would be the surprise box, I guess. Think of Forest Gump’s mom’s box of chocolates. You get the picture, eh?

This one is titled simply Akron Art Museum.  David comments briefly, “Blue and yellow building with canopy. Akron, Ohio. Shot at 8:30 in the morning. Nice sun.” Succinct, eh?This reminds me of some High Dynamic Range photography which I have seen. It is sometimes taken to extremes and produces very unusual effects. David uses a bewildering array of techniques to create his images. The resulting vision is surreal.

This one is Beatles Image With Water  or Aged Beatles.  Sometimes I’m not sure what the title is, but it’s the image that counts:

David comments, “This image was painted on the side of an old barn, in Thompson, Ohio. It is out in the middle of nowhere, and as I was driving, I saw it from the road. I stopped at the farmhouse and asked the woman that answered the door, if I could take some photos of it, on their property. She said, “Yes!” and then she told me that her daughter had painted this mural on their barn, 21 years ago. I did, of course, some post production work on it. You could barely see the image, color wise, before I saturated it, because of 22 years of weathering. I really love this image.”

I agree.

Here is Birds Of A Feather:

And David says, “Cleveland, Ohio / The Flats, along the Cuyahoga River, as it flows into Lake Erie. Multi layered Photoshop post production work.”

And this one is For Whom The Bell Tolls:

David’s description, “Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Just a fire alarm on the side of a building. I liked it, I shot it. I post produced it with my special effects!”

Sounds like Julius Caesar – Veni, vidi, vici. I came. I saw. I conquered.

This one is, strangely enough, All Gassed Up:

And David is a little more generous with his comment, “One of my favourite images. I was in a juried art show with this image. Please don’t tell the secret about this image! Everyone sees a rock band on stage, with the guitar players lined up, or some sort of a chain saw. What it really is, between you and me? Simply a line of one gallon gas (Petrol) cans lined up, on a shelf. I did a ton of post production work to make this image look so different. Keep the secret between us, as photographers!”

Okay, that was fun.

Here is Our Lady:

David:  “This is in Cleveland, Ohio – Tremont, which is the arts area of Cleveland. Front of a church. Just liked the beauty of Mary and Christ. Added color and my own David B Design touch.”

Try this one – Open Circuits:

And here’s David again, “Akron, Ohio. Downtown Akron Erie Canal Lock 3 Section. I just thought that the two circuit boxes and the wires looked really interesting. Added my DBD look to it.”

I like the way David takes very ordinary things and makes them extraordinary.

This is Days of Glory:

David’s comment, “Akron, Ohio. 125 year old, abandoned building with awesome pillars. Loved the pillars and made them stand out. Played with distort and perspective in Photoshop, along with my other effects. Gave them a deeper tone than what they looked like in reality.”

This one is Exhausting:  (David’s word, not mine.)

And David says,  “Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – 2010 at the Pittsburgh Air Show. This was a very large vent on one of the larger US military aircraft. I simply liked the look of it, shot it and post produced it.”

Okay, this is my favourite. Very funky!

And last we have Wing Man:

David: “Same Air Show. One huge wing. Loved the look of this wing and the sky behind it. Added just a touch of extra color to it.”

Okay, that one got me too.

As one who dabbles in image making I can’t help but think of things which I might have done differently. For example, I am a fan of what I call the “plastic look” which has the effect of smoothing out a surface, removing noise, especially colour noise, from the image. David doesn’t mind the noise. In fact, he seems to use it as part of the texture of the surface. As for myself, I like a cartoon effect. However, my preferred technique would not work for some of these images. You can see the effect of which I’m speaking here, here, here and here.

These differences of interpretation possibilities are part of what makes playing with images so much fun. If you sat ten image makers down with an interesting photograph and a computer with Photoshop on it you would end up with ten radically different images. Everybody would have fun.

Thanks, David, for sending me your beautiful creations. It’s nice to get out of myself.

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Kristy and the Hibiscus

Posted in Guest Shots, Mixed Nuts on November 21st, 2010 by MadDog
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Today I have another mixed bag of gibber-jabber and images. My work days on Thursday and Friday last week were severely disrupted by non-glamorous but essential tasks. At the end of Thursday’s post I showed a picture of Gosel, one of our Technical Services workers, mowing the grass at one of our houses. He also mowed my lawn that day. I suppose that describing what I have in front of my house as a “lawn” is a little pretentious. It’s a big patch of grass full of crab holes. It’s not even grass grass. It’s more like crabgrass. I guess that’s appropriate. On Friday there were two more yards to be manicured. It’s is not my usual work to haul Gosel around to the properties which need his weed-whacking attention. It would normally be something that our Administrator of Technical Services would tend to. Unfortunately, we do not have an Administrator of Technical Services. In fact, we are so short-staffed that all of us are doing things which most of us would not normally be called upon to do or have not done before. Our usual work is still there and still piling up.

In most workplaces in which I have been this kind of situation would cause problems of all kinds, mostly in the form of complaints and interpersonal relationship kerfuffles. Since I came back from Australia and resumed my duties I have been amazed and greatly encouraged by the way our entire staff of workers has responded to the drastic changes in the distribution and nature of our work loads. We still face some difficult times, but we are truly pulling together as a team.

Okay, that was pretty boring, eh? I’m sure that you dropped by so I could tell you all about my work days last week. I’m a charmer, I am.

Well, maybe I can amuse you by describing the strange little thing which just happened back in my medulla oblongata. We’re talking way down deep here, folks. I have no control over these things. It’s a lot like hiccups.

When the words “pulling together as a team” dribbled off my fingertips onto my keyboard, I had a sudden surge of energy from my autonomic music centre. It blasted my one good ear with some lines of the Pink Floyd song Have a Cigar  from the 1975 album Wish You Were Here.  I have an intense affinity for that album. It’s very familiar territory. I can’t listen to the title song without crying. Yeah, I know that’s an old man thing. The problem is that I’ve been doing that since the album came out. I wasn’t so old then.

It could be made into a monster
If we all pull together as a team.
And did we tell you the name of the game, boy,
We call it Riding the Gravy Train.

Strange, eh? – that the connection was made. Happens to me all the time. Rats have chewed all of the insulation off my wires.

Music can be so powerful. How does that happen? Take some notes, string them together, mix in some words . . . and you get a punch in the guts. Of course, it has to be the right tones in the right sequence and the words have to get your attention at some level deeper than a daydream.

The staticy radio sound of the acoustic guitar lead-in which drifts into a live sound at the beginning of Wish You Were Here  is pure genius to me. I’m listening to it right now. And, yeah, you guessed it. . . I won’t say it.

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Oh, so many absent friends – so many I will never see again.

(Sniff, sniff . . .)  I’m repeating myself. I note that I wrote about this song in a very morose post only last March.

Okay, enough of that. Let’s look at some flowers and some other stuff. I have a treat for you at the end, so you may want to skip down to it.

While the grass was being trimmed at one of our houses and I didn’t want to drive back to the office and then come back later to pick Gosel up, I took advantage of the time to walk around the yard and snap some pictures. This view struck me as a comment about life these days in Papua New Guinea:

Razor wire and flowers – paradise and danger. How many ways can you say it? Things are not as pleasant as they once were. It is not considered safe now to drive up the North Coast Road. Expatriate volunteer workers are being advised rather strongly not to leave town. I’ve never been seriously concerned about my personal safety before in Madang. Now I’m not so sure. Tomorrow I wanted to drive up to Blueblood to party with friends. Now, I either have to go by boat or stay at home. I’m certainly not going to risk a carjacking of my new truck (can you carjack a truck?).

All right, let’s not dwell on that for too long. Here is a close-up of the business end of a hibiscus flower:

It reminds me of a particularly elaborate cheerleader’s pompom or maybe Mother Nature’s sceptre.

This hibiscus blossom has just opened. The yellow anthers are still globbed together in a ball:

Even after thirty years, I still occasionally see a colour of hibiscus which is new to me:

You never know what you will find in someone’s yard:

This unusually prickly pineapple plant is not only tasty when ripe, but very decorative.

Where there is lush plant life, you will always find the grazers:And vegetation is everywhere. This is the fire eaten stump of a huge raintree. In the hollow, a little garden grows:

Okay, I think that I have beat that subject to death now. Let’s move on.

I’ve been corresponding with a young lady for a while about photography. Kristy Peacock wants to enhance her ability to take exactly the photos which she wants. It does take a little understanding of some basic technical issues and knowledge of how to make your camera do what you want instead of doing what it wants. Once you begin to put these things to work you can step outside of the snapshot box.

We were talking about the night modes on her camera. I am glad to see that she is experimenting:

It’s a very imaginative shot. I’m not even sure how she did it. Maybe she’ll explain in a comment. The phantom images look like a double exposure, but I don’t think that is is it.  It’s more likely people moving out in the yard behind Kristy during the long exposure time when the “dark” image is forming before the flash goes off to capture the foreground.

I’m very glad that she sent this one to me. I like silky water shots. I’m pretty sure that this one had to be a tripod exposure, as I suspect was the one above. The exposure time would have had to be a second or more:

Some cameras have what is called a neutral density filter built in. Otherwise you can add one in front of the lens. The purpose of the filter is to cut down the amount of light getting through the lens. This allows you to use a much slower shutter speed. You have to brace the camera firmly against a solid object or, better yet, use a tripod. The result is that the water is motion blurred while everything else remains crisp and sharp.  Very nice work, Kristy.

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Alison Raynor’s Magic Garden

Posted in Guest Shots, Photography Tricks on November 5th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today we’re going to do some more of Alison Raynor’s shots from Amazing Australia. How could a place called Toogoolawah not  be magical? I’m getting very bored talking about myself, so I’m giving my ego a holiday. It needs a rest. I will have a few comments to make concerning photography and the the care and feeding of images.

Let’s start with this sunset shot at Mt. Beppo. This probably won’t be hanging on any gallery walls, but it has some interesting features. The first thing which I noticed was the colour of the sky in the upper part of the image. It is most unusual. I tried not to mess with it, so it is pretty faithful to the original, I think. The horizon is slightly tilted. In this shot, it works fine for me. It’s not quite an angled line, which is a good compositional tool, but it isn’t straight either. It teases the eyes just a little, like a picture hanging crooked on the wall. I like the fence post standing right in the middle. The eyes keep coming back to it. There are two trees, but they are very different. This provides some contrasting elements:

All in all, it’s a pleasant, simple shot which speaks with a small, comforting voice. Ali emailed it to me at 1280 x 960 pixels and the file size was about 140K. That is about the minimum size in pixels and the tightest compression which works well for a photography oriented site such as MPBM. You can click on it to enlarge and have a nice viewing experience.

This is another very pretty image. It reminds me of the succulent plants which we called “Hens and Chickens” as children. Ali can tell us what it is, I’m certain:

I got this one in an email also. It came in at 516 x 639 pixels and the file size was 65K. Now we are getting into the range of too few pixels for pleasant “click me” viewing. If you do click to enlarge you will be able to begin to see some jaggie edges and the level of detail has dropped off. It’s fine to view on the page, but when you blow it up, it suffers. According to your browser and your display resolution, it may also not fill your screen.

I hasten to add that I haven’t talked to Ali about any of this yet, so I hope she can forgive me for jumping the gun. Ali shoots lovely images. I want them to keep coming – just a little bigger.

When I first saw this one I thought that someone had woven a spider web out of string. It is a near perfect coating of morning dew. The web is being dragged down by the weight of the water:

This one came in at 480 x 640 pixels and about 70K. It is too small for blown-up viewing. Also, if you do enlarge it you can begin to see chunky little out-of-place bits, especially around the edges of the web, which are produced when the image is compressed down to a too-small file size. You might have to zoom in a little to see this. In Firefox you can hold the CTRL key down and press the “+” or “-” key to zoom in or out. These chunky bits are called compression artefacts. Once they are there, you can’t get rid of them. All you can do is go back to your original file and save it again with less compression, and possibly more pixels. There is no free lunch. This is why I always save a copy of an image which I have edited at the full resolution that it was shot. I use a different file name for the “save as”, but keep the image number in it, so that I have both the camera image and the edited image. I might want to start all over on the editing for a different effect. I don’t want to waste all of my editing work by downsizing the image and compressing it too much. I can then make smaller versions for special purposes as I need them.

Again I’ll note that Ali did not know that I was going to put these up on MPBM, though she should suspect that I’m likely to, because nearly everything that she sends, I like. I’ll also say that I’m a little jealous of that spider web. I don’t have any which are nearly so good.

This is another very interesting spider web shot, because of its depth of field (pretty much in focus from near to far). I really like the washed out colours and the way the building and tree seem to float behind the web. The jumbled twigs in the sky are a nice touch:

This one was about the same size and compression as the previous one. If you click to enlarge, you will see that it also suffers when blown up. It is the same problem, not enough pixels and too much compression. The fewer pixels you start with, the more the image will suffer from too much compression.

This is a very sweet, loud image. It tickles my fancy. It breaks a few compositional rules, but it still pops!

It came in at 1280 x 960 pixels and 213K. Though a little short on my usual standard of 1600 pixels on the longest dimension, it still looks very nice enlarged. Also the larger file size means that the compression was not too great, so there are no nasty compression artefacts. Very pretty indeed, but you don’t want to stare at it for too long. If you do, you will no longer be in Kansas!

I like this Snake in the Garden shot. It is so hard to get close enough to snakes to get great shots such as this one. For one thing, I’m never quite certain what might like to bite me and what the consequences of that might be. This one doesn’t look dangerous, but neither does Britney Spears. Still, I would keep my distance from her:

This one came in at 640 x 480 and 48K. That’s too small and too compressed. If you click to enlarge, you will see another type of compression artefact. Look in the lighter areas especially and you will notice some little squares of colour which don’t blend in with each other. This is because the compression program is breaking the image into little blocks to try to make the image smaller. As you enlarge the image, you can see the blocks.

So, what’s the message? Well, if you would like to send to me some of your tasty images for a guest shot (and I can’t imagine why you would not), just follow this simple formula. Resize your final, perfect image down (remembering to keep a copy at full size) to 1600 pixels on the longest edge. Then, when you are saving, set your compression to make a file no smaller than about 200K. The resulting file will look beautiful on a full screen view.

I can but hope that Ali will forgive me for using her very pretty shots as examples. If I had received them at larger sizes I would have not had the chance for this little excursion into the bone-crushingly boring details of image sizing and compression. So, thank you Ali.

By the way, I cannot resist, at the slightest opportunity, to poke fun at rabid Britney Spears fans. My post  Britney Spears Will Make Me Famous attracted more comments than any other on MPBM. There were many more acid remarks left which I did not allow into the comments. I received no death threats, but there were some which made me glad that I was half a world away from the sender.

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Guest Artist – Kathleen Farago May

Posted in Guest Shots on September 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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As the interlocutor on the Monty Python’s Flying Circus  used to announce, “And now for something completely different.” I ran across Kathleen Farago May seemingly by accident, as so often happens with social networking. Looking at her work, I was puzzled by the impressions I was experiencing. In the common parlance, the images are “spiritual” in nature. This means, of course, a lot of different things to different people.

I am very curious about the spirituality others. I lived my early years in, to say the least, a spiritually diverse environment. Finally, I had to make up my mind what I believed. For my own spiritual life, I found the “many paths” idea untenable. Nevertheless, I think that one way to become more firmly founded in one’s own beliefs is by trying to understand the beliefs of others. You can take out your ideas one by one and compare them to others. If nothing else, it provides a sort of canvas on which to paint a picture of what you believe. Learning about machines in general can teach you something about how your car works. It will not allow you to fix a faluty engine, but you might figure out how to change a tyre.

This is not a very popular idea among Christians, I know. But, for me, I find validification coming with understanding. I also find opportunities to “compare notes” with others concerning their beliefs. Along this path, I occasionally find those whose confusion or lack of belief can be addressed by quiet discourse and hearing ears.

But, we’re not here to talk about me today. We’ve had enough of that for a little while. I am curious to see if Kathleen’s images speak to others as some of them have spoken to me. Maybe they have different things to say to different people. It would surprise me if they did not. Artistically, the images are an exotic blend of the real and the surreal. It sounds crazy, but Salvador Dali keeps popping into my mind. I don’t know if I can explain that!  Kathleen uses photographic images, art and computer generated patterns for her compositions. Possibly this explains the “old” and “new” mix of impressions that I feel when I view them.

I’m going to present them with Kathleen’s comments. If I have something to say about an image, I’ll put it in after Kathleen’s text.


Gaia’s Song:

Mother Earth is so beautiful, and one of the most lyrical creations is the sea. I feel that this is her song, because like music, the sea moves and changes through time, the beauty being perceived differently, each time one encounters a song or the sea.

Being a sea creature and a lover of bush walking, this combination of ocean and mountain delivers an amusing experience to me. The computer generated interlocking sine waves seem to blend it all together.

Take Me Away:

A painting that is a prayer – seeking reprieve from a particularly difficult passage in my life, I was asking my angels to release me from the difficulty of this part of my journey. Within two months they did.

There are so many concepts of angels that I generally leave them alone. Whether they leave me alone or not is open to question. Life is confusing enough for me without them. However, if one is into angels, this is probably a comforting image. It has a strong Eastern feel to it, which strikes me as a little unusual. It certainly is a very nice bit of work.

Dancing in the Light:

About the joy of two souls sharing the light of life. At this point, when I painted this, I was still only imagining the joy that this could be, within three months, I had found the soul with whom that I am able to share this joy.

Well, I love to dance. Since childhood, dancing has been a part of my life. My mother taught ballet and my father taught tap. Together they taught ballroom, modern and jitterbug. Very naturally, this image strikes a chord in my heart.

Centered in Love:

Love has given me an enhanced perception of the beauty of life and I feel more able to perceive the miracle of each moment.

This one gets me where I live. It is a lovely composition. It’s truly magical. I feel all warm and fuzzy when I spend some time with it.

Bliss is Movement Towards Love:

“When I see I am nothing, that is wisdom. When I see I am everything, that is love. My life is a movement between these two.” ~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

I’m not usually moved by purely geometrical patterns, unless they are grounded somehow in realism. However, having dabbled with computer programs which produce them, I will say that is much more difficult than one might think to come up with patterns which are visually pleasing. Most of them just look like, well, vaguely pretty patterns cranked out by a computer. I think that the reason for my ambiquity is that I am so fixed in reality. Focusing on photography can erase appreciation for other varieties of art if one is not careful. I find this image pleasing, so I’ll credit Kathleen with spending considerable time honing her skills.

Rising Clarity:

In my current state, I feel that my perceptions, both intellectual and emotional, have risen to a new level of clarity – I have emerged from the turbulence of previous passages.

I like this one better, possibly because it is not so utterly symmetrical. There is something else there. I’ll back off here before I am accused of critiquing something which I do not understand.

Hydrothermal Origin of Life:

With gratitude to Jan Messersmith for permission to include his original image. This is one of my fascinations – how life can manifest in such challenging environments as hydrothermal vents. This is not meant to be a scientific depiction, just a visual expression of my wonder and awe.

Well, of course I would like this one much better for a couple of reasons. First off is that it contains one my images of a Magnificent Anemone. Another attraction is that it actually has something grounded in reality in it. Yes, I like this.

Kathleen has revealed to me a few thoughts concerning her life. They are too personal for me to pass on. I can say, however, that she has long persevered and is now blessed. I would guess that she is probably blessed beyond what she ever imagined would be possible for her.

We hope for much. Sometimes we think that hope is, well, hopeless. However, if we stop to think about it with a grateful mind, we might realise that we probably receive many more good things than we really expect. Hope and expectation seldom correlate. Every day is a blessing. Every day has a value beyond purchase. We can’t buy more time.

I need to listen more to my heart. That’s the communications centre. The head is just an accessory.