Guest Shooter – Muffet Petrehn

Posted in Guest Shots on June 18th, 2010 by MadDog
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I get tired of everything here being centered on me.   Of course, me  is a very important concept and the me  things need to be kept at the forefront and proper attention should be given to me.  However, much as I am devoted to the promotion of me,  I still sometimes get bored with me.  That’s why I sometimes like to feature interesting people who are not me.

Today she, who, by the way, is not me,  is a nice young mom of three kids who loves her family, photography, traveling, horses (has two), playing guitar and speaking Spanish. Before she became a photographer about six years ago, she was a Dental Hygienist.  She has a photography studio in her home on nine acres twenty miles south of Kansas City. She told me that one of the coolest things that she has photographed was open heart surgery (twice) at an incredible children’s hospital KC. I have photographed corneal implant surgery from a safe distance, but I’ll forgo getting up-close and personal with a throbbing heart.

Each of these images has been merited in the Professional Photographers Association International Print Competition. I’m going to let Muffet tell you about them in her own words.

Fire Warrior  – Was taken down the street from my house. I went out to feed the horses one night and it looked like the whole skyline was on fire. I grabbed my camera and tripod and got this shot.Fire Warrior by Muffet Petrehn

Rough Exterior  – taken in a small town in Tuscany.  I named it Rough Exterior because maybe this man is a lot sweeter than he looks in this image. : ) *

Rough Exterior by Muffet Petrehn

Soul Mates  – An example of my portrait work.  Taken at my place in my 150 year old barn.
Soul Mates by Muffet Petrehn

Siena Rain  – Taken in Siena during a photography workshop –  the assignment was to capture motion.  This image is very special to me because I was just starting photography and a world famous photographer leading the workshop told me that he wished that he had captured this image.  It did a lot for my confidence as a photographer.
Siena Rain by Muffet Petrehn

Cheyenne Autumn  – My place and my horses : ) It had been stormy – I went out on my deck and the clouds broke shining light down on the horses.  I grabbed my camera and whistled to them to get them to look up. I later took out my electric fence and used a Nik filter to change the green grass and leaves to the oranges to match the horses better.Cheyenne Autumn by Muffet Petrehn
Silent Sentinel  – Taken in Montepulciano. One of my favorite places to visit. This cathedral is in the movie  Under the Tuscan Sun.Silent Sentinel by Muffet Petrehn
Holding on to Hope:  Taken on a missions trip to Honduras. The summer after I took this image my daughter spent more time there and was able to find this little boys family and give them a copy of this image.Holding on to Hope by Muffet Petrehn
* An interesting note here is the amazing resemblance between this shot by Muffet and my shot taken in Tuscany in The Rule of Thirds: My image from Tuscany - Jan Messersmith

All this proves is that many photographers are looking for the same compositional factors.

Give ten photographers a scene and you will get ten visual essays about what is in it. Some may be radically different, but some will be nearly identical.

Water Comes Down – Water Goes Up

Posted in Guest Shots, Mixed Nuts on April 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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I have some very amusing images from two dear friends who are guest shooters today and a couple of shots of my own. I very much enjoy featuring images from friends. I hope that I’ve given enough encouragement to readers to send me images which have spoken to them. If not, I’m issuing the invitation once again. I started this as a source of eclectic amusement and information. There is much here about Madang and our lives and interests. However, our many readers have much to contribute also. The more participation that we have, the more interesting Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  will become.

Our first shot today comes from our Hamilton, Ontario friend, Ron Barrons. Ron said that his wife treated him to a visit to Niagara Falls recently. One can only speculate what prompted that generosity. Anyway, Ron captured this stunning image of the falls through the window of their hotel room:Now, I don’t want to take anything away from the beauty of this picture. Great job, Ron. Makes me drool. However, I’m picturing Brenda’s face as Ron fiddles with his tripod and his f-stops and his shutter speed while she re-thinks the whole idea. Ron, I can only pray that you did not ask her to carry your tripod. Women hate  that! There’s an old photographers’ joke that goes like this:  A life-long English amateur photographer dies. At his funeral his wife is overheard to say, “Ah, well, it’s a pity he’s gone, but at least I don’t have to carry his bloody tripod any more.”

Here’s a lovely shot from the lovely Tracey Lee. It’s a waterspout shot at Honiara in 2006:There’s some pretty furious action there at the base. We had another waterspout from Trevor Hattersley just the other day. Nice one, Tracey!

And, now that we’ve disposed of the title of this post, we’ll move on to this crisp shot of Old Fort Niagara again by Ron Barrons:Fort Niagara is the oldest surviving building in the Great Lakes area, having been erected in 1726. It is also the oldest continuously occupied military site in North America. This looks like a long telephoto shot to me. I got images of parts of the fort area from the same spot with my Olympus SP-590UZ the last time I was up there. I nearly froze my bum off.

This morning the southern sky was wonderfully back lighting Kar Kar Island.  I had to get up on the top of the roof of my truck to get this shot. It would have been better from the top of my house, but I was to wobbly at that time of the morning for ladders:Whenever there is a lot of news about volcanoes, such as the current fracas in Iceland, we all cast wary eyes toward Kar Kar Island. It’s listed as one of the most potentially dangerous volcanoes in the world and it by no means dormant. It rumbles and smoked regularly. There was a recent report that it has erupted, but that turned out to be a false alarm.

Last for today, but my no means least, are the Two Eunice Messersmiths:The larger model on the left is my gorgeous wife. The little one in the middle is also Eunice Messersmith. Her mom, Maureen, was raised in our house by her mom, Juli who has been our haus meri  and general manager of the house for over twenty years. Juli is sort of like a daughter to us, so Little Eunice Messersmith is like a great-granddaughter. Juli came into the office to show us Little Eunice’s birth certificate, a document which few Papua New Guineans even possess. It says right there that her name is Eunice Messersmith. Go figure!

I like her very stylish pink shades. She’s gonna be trouble!

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Guest Shooter Val Jerram in India

Posted in Guest Shots on April 1st, 2010 by MadDog
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Under the heading of Best Laid Plans several have gone astray in the last couple of days. For the last few days I’ve been unable to connect to the Internet by my new wireless hop from the office because I failed to realise that the power at the coconut oil refinery was going to be horribly unreliable. Then, this morning, my brand-new Windows 7 installation on my desktop computer at home stayed stuck on the “Please wait . . . ” screen for two hours. How long  do I have to wait, for pity’s sake?

The wireless problem has been partially solved by moving the hop from the coconut oil refinery to the top of the big supermarket across the harbour from our house. I know that the power there will be reliable, because there is a tonne of refrigeration equipment there and it must be kept running. The generators there kick in withing 10 seconds day and night 356 days a year.

I spent about four hours up on the roof of the supermarket this morning in the blazing hot sun. I’m still taking an antibiotic that could make me “sun sensitive” whatever that means, but I didn’t remember that until we were just about finished. I’d had no breakfast and no water. I didn’t realise that I’d overdone it until my vision started to tunnel and my knees got so wobbly that I hardly made it down the ladder. When I got back to the office, I took my dripping wet shirt off and laid down on the couch in the reception area and begged for food and water. As I lay there recuperating, I reminded myself that several seemingly minor errors in succession can put one in a world of hurt when their effects accumulate.

I think that the Windows 7 installation failure after only one day of use was because I hooked up my old Vista hard disk to get the data off of it. The first time that I booted after that, I believe That Mr. Gates’ software got terminally confused and did a Vulcan Mind Meld between Vista and Windows 7. You can guess what the solution to this problem is. I’m working on my laptop now with a slow dial-up connection while I reinstall Windows 7. I have to be honest and say that this is the first real complaint that I’ve had against W7. Otherwise it has been a dream, a good  dream.

Enough about all that. We’re here to see some more of Val Jerram’s lovely images of India. I’m happy to have influenced Val to develop her photographic talents. She has a Flickr Pro account with thousands of images from her travels around the world. There is some very nice stuff there on Darby Dog at Flickr.

I wish that I had paid more attention to Val’s comments on these images. I was so addled that I just took the time to prepare them for WordPress and uploaded them. I can’t comment much on them, but that’s okay. Good images should speak for themselves. This one certainly has a vioce:Happy faces, eh?

This one I love. It’s a very well composed image. I did only a bit of cropping and reduced the saturation of the background to make the machines pop:The presence of the three women in the corner make background look like a giant poster.

Nice, juicy colours make this ordinary scene come alive:I find it amusing that most of the carts in the world today seem to have begun their lives as automobiles or trucks.

This fantasy of colour is the inside of a dome:And this mosaic must have taken thousands of hours to complete:

We are just beginning the four day Easter weekend here. I’ll be up early to try to get the wireless connection finished. At noon I’m taking Jo and Ush out on Faded Glory  for a swim. I’ll probably do a solo dive to get some images to keep the pages filled.

I hope it’s not too sunny.

I can’t believe that I’m saying that.

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Guest Shooter – Jo Noble – Handy With a Camera

Posted in Guest Shots on March 12th, 2010 by MadDog
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Being a born narcissist and a photographer, I should have a few more images of myself, eh? I just never got into it. It seems creepy to me. Beside that, when I do try it, I usually hate the result. Maybe I should practice a little. The swing-around screen on my new Canon G11 should come in handy.

Having Jo Noble along on my last trip out to the Balek Wildlife Reserve was a treat in more ways than one. Some motorcycle passengers can drive a rider crazy – always moving around, fighting the balance, leaning the wrong way. Jo is as steady as a rock, even when she’s waving her camera around taking very cute shots like this one:There are several shots in this post that remind me of  The Lowman Loop – Boise, Idaho – A Motorcycle Ride to Heaven.

Jo also goes out with us on Saturdays on Faded Glory.  She got this shot of me which I like very much:I call it The Thousand-Year-Old Man.  You could use this as an illustration in a book about Neanderthals.

Jo swings her camera around with her eyes. I like that in a photographer. It’s all about recording your vision of the world. Here’s a beautiful snap of Four-Mile Market:Nice composition.

She also has the capacity to aggravate me. I chased this dragonfly around until I was panting. She walked up to it and clicked:Okay, we’ve established that she can do macros and she’s not nearly as scary as I am.

When she turned her sword on me, I wasn’t convinced that the shot would be much good because of the backlighting. I almost chastised her for a technical boo-boo:

I’m glad that I didn’t. I would have embarrassed myself. It turned out to be a shot with a lot of visual appeal. Technical rules do not necessarily a good photo make. (That’s Yoda-speak. Speaking like Yoda, practicing, I am.)

Jo also digs “the moment”. This is what is missing in a lot of snapshots. Here the picture tells the story:When we saw that mud, we both decided that mud-wrestling was not on for today. She got the perfect moment in the turn-around, including my left foot off the ground as I wrestled the hog in a tight arc, nearly falling over.

Being a convenient moment, I sneaked off to the grass to . . . uh . . . you know. Jo caught me coming back looking all goofy and,  if I might say, macho and  she caught herself in the mirror and  the mud hole that had changed our plans:Bit of genius there, I’d say. I would never have thought of setting up such a complicated shot. She had it all lined up and was standing there waiting for me to step onto my mark.

What would a motorcycle ride be without a shot of yourself in the reflection off of your friend’s helmet:It would demonstrate a lack of imagination, I’d say. Jo didn’t fail the test.

Next time you take a friend for a ride on your Harley, choose one with a camera and smart eyes.

Thanks, Jo Noble, for a super Guest Shoot.

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Nearing the End

Posted in Guest Shots, Mixed Nuts on December 30th, 2009 by MadDog
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Counting the years as they whiz past seems less fun than it did at twenty. And, whizzing past they are.  It’s a pity that life speeds by so quickly as you get close to whatever is at the end. It feels as if I’ve had the pedal to the metal since I was thirteen and now I’m running flat-out in the fog at night with my hair on fire. The thought, “Pretty soon I’ll be dead.” intrudes daily into my otherwise manageable world.

Well, there is no sense in crying over milk that has yet to be spilt. It’s not that death frightens me. I made peace with death a long time ago. Accepting The Big Sleep as something that is as natural as life itself, indeed, defining life,  has removed the heebie-jeebie factor from the death equation for me. There’s some kind of Big Plan. My death is simply a part of that. I’ve been inches or seconds from death so many times that I’ve lost count. I’ve lost interest in counting. Death is the biggest tease of all. How close can  you get?

No, I’m not going to off myself. I’m having way too much fun for that. I’ve been sitting here listening to Pink Floyd for about three hours now. That’s enough to make anybody ponder darkly the meaning of life.

Today I’m feeding you a stew of images that don’t fit anywhere else. Butter up some bread and have a seat:

That was Wongat Island  which just flew past and is left in the wake of Mike Cassell’s boat, Felmara,  on our way up to Blueblood on Christmas Day. It has a very nice beach and is the only place that I know of where you can pick up magnificent specimens of weathered blue coral. I’ll have to do a post on it someday.

This is a much prettier island image. I think that it is Sinub Island;  the outline looks right. I wasn’t really paying much attention to navigation, since I wasn’t driving:The sun lit it up nicely and a polarising filter over the lens darkened up the sky just as it is supposed to do. The big Cumulonimbus cloud is casting a lovely reflection on the sea.

Here is an example of how to blow out your whites. The little sensor in my Canon G9 simply can’t handle the dynamic range of brightness levels in this shot:The rest of the image was recoverable, except for the blocked blacks which I can live with in this image. However the bright area in the centre was blown out to pure white. I couldn’t get any detail out of it. This is where a US$5,000 camera comes in handy, if you have the moolah for it. I had to fake something in there, so Photoshop saved the day with the Selective Colour tool set on Absolute. Choosing Whites as the colour, I tweaked up the Yellow slider and added just a touch of Red. It looks a little fakey, but hey, what do you expect for a tenth of the price?

This shot fits my mood today like a glove. It’s raining and cold outside; Eunie would say that it’s winter today in Madang. The Finnisterre Mountains  are glowering in the distance as rain tumbles down from the gravid clouds:Mind, when we say ‘cold’ were talking maybe 24°C (75°F). I never sweat any more. My body has fallen deeply in love with tropical weather. In Indiana, at this time of year, I’d be dead in a month – I’m sure of it!

I gave you a frame of this series of sunrise over Astrolabe Bay  in another post. I like this one better:The canoe man is more clearly visible here. I also used a different mood for the colours. You can compare them, if you like.

Since I seem to be wallowing in the ephemeral nature of life today, here is a perfect image with which to illustrate the principle:

When I named this image Ephemeral Mushrooms, I thought that I was being very cute and trippy. Then I Googled the phrase and got 731 hits. So much for originality. Among other scholarly titles was, The Predictability of Ephemeral Mushrooms and Implications for Mycophagous Fly Communities.  That will give you the gist of the subject. I didn’t even know that mycophagus flies had  communities. I thought they were like wandering hunter-gatherers.

Okay, okay, I’ll wrap up this orgy of self-pity and random fluctuations with a Guest Shot by our fine friend and enthusiastic fellow photographer, Ron Barrons of Hamilton, Ontario. Ron, like myself, is a waterfalls buff. Here is his latest shot of Princess Falls.
I call the image above Princess Falls Mugged.  That’s because it’s my interpretation of the image that Ron sent to me. As I do, Ron struggles with ‘flat light’. He emailed the image to me with the remark that the lighting that day was very flat. My addition of a blue sky at the top seems to contradict this, but it’s fake. Punching up the contrast and increasing the γ of the image did wonders for it. Lightening only the shadows and changing the water in the pool from sickly green to deep blue put on the finishing touches. Actually, I liked the shot the way Ron sent it to me.

By the way, Ron said that Princess Falls only works when it rains. Otherwise it is dry. A dry waterfall. Hmmm . . . Is  it a waterfall, when it’s dry? Anyway, Ron said that he was going out to try again, but it will have to wait until all the ice is gone. Thank heavens I  don’t have to deal with that!

I simply couldn’t resist “improving” it.

Ron is a forgiving guy.

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Guest Photographer Val Jerram – India With Eyes Wide Open

Posted in Guest Shots on November 25th, 2009 by MadDog
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I so much enjoy featuring the images of friends who share my passion for photography. Our long-time friend Val Jerram is a perfect example. Val is a world traveller of the first order. She’s been everywhere, man! She recently sent me some images from her last visit to India. I’m happy to present them to you here. Val shoots with a high-end point-and-shoot camera; she’s had a variety of them. These are great examples of what can be done with them by someone who reads the manual and has a good pair of eyes for composition and the moment.

Here’s a nice example. This image of a man playing the Sitar seems, at first, not particularly special. It’s nice, but . . . Okay, now look again. Look at the expression on the face of the old man in the background. Knowing Val, I don’t think this was an accidentally excellent shot. Here’s what Val had to say:

This gent Dr A. J. Tha serenaded us and played his sitar, along with a drummer at sunset as the fellow in the background paddled the boat down the Ganges river at sunset and we set our lighted candles to float on the water. There was a hive of activity because they were celebrating the religious festival of Diwale (The Indian equivalent of Christmas).

Sitar Man by Val JerramSounds better coming from Val, eh? Here’s another beautiful image preceeded by Val’s comment:

The picture of the man was taken in a remote village when we went for a walk after breakfast. We had stayed in the local fort which which was being restored and used as a hotel. It was in the province of Rajasthan.

Indian Man at Sunrise by Val JerramExquisite!

And, just to show that she’s not immune the the ‘tourist shot’ here’s one of the Taj Mahal:

Taj Mahal by Val JerramHey, wait a minute! That’s not your average tourist snapshot. That’s a well-thought-out, beautifully composed photograph worthy of exhibition.

Here’s one that Val described as, “A family out for a ride on the outskirts of town.”

Camel and Family by Val JerramNice use of the Rule of Thirds, angular elements and interesting cropping to capture the sense of motion.

This one is my favourite. Eat your heart out, National Geographic! Here’s what Val had to say:

On our ride on camels into the desert we had to take a break for some of our camel drivers to put their prayer mats down and face Mecca.

Camel Drivers by Val JerramOkay, but she didn’t walk over and take a shot of the guys praying, no not Val. That would be far too obvious. They are way up in the corner. Once you start to listen to the image, hearing what it’s about, you can’t stop looking at the fellows praying. It’s a setup job. She’s tricked you. All that beautiful colour and the smiling faces are red herrings.

And here is the talented lady herself:

It can get cool in the desert overnight. On the ride out those long sleeves protected me from the hot sun. The obligatory money pouch is strung around my neck.

Val JerramShe keeps saying that she’s going to take root for a while.

I don’t believe a word of it.

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Skies – Trees – Tug Boat – Guest Ron Barrons

Posted in Guest Shots, Mixed Nuts on November 17th, 2009 by MadDog
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I was very happy this week to get a couple of gorgeous images from our friend Ron Barrons.  Ron lives in Hamilton, Ontario where our son and his family also reside. We’ve had many happy times in Hamilton with family and visiting Ron and his wife, Brenda. Ron has been a guest on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  here.

This one gives me goose-bumps. I could bore you to tears with my analysis of this image. It’s got it all. The composition is perfect, using just about every rule to perfection. Note at the right side on the horizon that you can see the bridge connecting Hamilton to Toronto. Click to enlarge (I wish I had a higher resolution image for you) and you’ll see it better:

Hamilton, Ontario Sunrise by Ron Barrons That bridge makes a wonderful focal point in the enlarged image.  All of the lines and shapes seem to point to it. You can’t keep your eyes away from it, but it doesn’t dominate.

Here’s another fine composition by Ron. Though I hate being cold, I do envy the photographers who live in temperate regions with beautiful deciduous forests that glow with surreal colours in the autumn. Ron beautifully captured the serenity of this scene. I don’t know where the image was shot, but I’d like to go there and sit for a while, in a warm coat with a cold Chardonnay and a cigar:Trees mirrored by Ron BarronsNice job, Ron. Please, keep them coming!

Well, I feel a little inadequate this morning to compete with that. Hey, it’s not a competition anyway. It’s a sharing. So, A couple of mornings ago, I got this mid-telephoto of the sun rising above Madang Town across the harbour from our house:Madang sunrise with copra boat heading to Kar Kar IslandThe shot shows the limitations of the sensors in point-and-shoot cameras such as my Canon G9, my carry-about camera. No matter what I did, I could not bring up any decent detail and colour in the shadowed town. The dynamic range of brightness in the scene was just too much for the sensor to capture.

The main advantage of a big, full 35mm frame (called FX) sensor in an expensive digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera is that each ‘bucket’ (pixel) that collects photons of light is bigger. This means that the number of photons counted from adjoining buckets will be more accurate because the random fluctuations caused by several factors will be smaller. In other words, there will be less noise  in the image. Noise shows up as little speckles that shouldn’t be there. The bigger buckets also collect more photons, so the calculations in the computer in the camera can more accurately deliver a wider range of brightness levels (dynamic range).

Here’s how I think of that. Imagine marking off an area in your yard ten metres square. First, put out 1,000 little buckets filling the area as best you can and wait for a big rain. Now measure the water in each bucket. You’ll find a comparatively large difference between buckets, when you would have expected them to be all the same. This is noise. Now remove the 1,000 buckets and replace them with 100 buckets filling the area (they will have to be bigger  buckets). Now wait for a rain which drops about the same amount of water. This time, when you measure the water in the buckets you will find that there is much less difference between them. You have reduced the noise. That’s one important reason why bigger sensors are better. You don’t want more pixels, that can make the noise worse, because each pixel must be smaller. What you want is bigger  pixels.

There are other reasons that bigger sensors are better, but those are even more boring.

This shot made me a little happier:Tug boat in the morning light across the harbour from our houseIt’s a little fakey looking, because I had to massage it pretty vigorously with Photoshop, but it’s cheery, so I’ll satisfy myself with that.

I went a little crazy with the panorama concept in this one:Madang Town morning panoramaIf you click to enlarge, you can see quite a bit of detail in Madang Town, including a blurry band around the tall coconut tree to the left of centre where Photoshop failed to blend properly the adjacent frames when it was building the merged image.

We’re having fish tomorrow! Somebody bring the tartar sauce.

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