The Relaxing Art of Faking It

Posted in Photography Tricks on November 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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As part of my plan to get more sleep, I’m forcing myself to stay up until at least 23:30 each night. The other part of the plan is not  to lounge in bed watching the same movie on HBO for the twentieth time. I realised that I had failed the second part of the plan this evening when I caught myself staring mesmerised near the end of Dr. Strangelove  at about the point where Slim Pikins was mounting the hydrogen bomb with his cowboy hat on. There is nothing at all wrong with Dr. Strangelove.  It’s an excellent flick. However, it might be considered excessive to have viewed it as many times as I have. I have most of the dialogue memorised.

So, here it is at 23:07 already and I’m just getting around to writing. I did, however manage the time this evening, since I cooked yesterday evening (boiled cabbage, steamed pumpkin, broccoli, pasta with tomato and mushroom sauce) to download some new free Photoshop filters.  When I cook, I cook frantically – several dishes at a time. I had the entire stove going yesterday. It was as hot as the hubs of Hades in the kitchen.

So, I’m celebrating a little free time this evening by engaging in my most relaxing hobby – Fake Art. Some reasons why I find it relaxing are that nobody is telling me how to do it and I have absolutely no constraints. I’m pleasing only myself and, contrary to popular opinion, I’m quite easy to please.

So, let’s get on with it.

Oh, before I forget . . . Stupid Mistake #987 (I start counting all over again on each January 1st). I didn’t think of survivors benefit’s.  Well, I sort of thought of it, but not effectively. When I noticed that Eunie’s Social Security money was no longer showing up in the bank account along with mine I reckoned that I just wouldn’t be getting any. Then a friend (a Canadian,  for pity’s sake!) said to me yesterday that she thought that I should be getting survivor’s benefits and maybe I would have to apply. Apply? APPLY?? Why didn’t I think of that? I don’t think that I’m a danger to others, but I’m certainly a danger to myself.

So, I got on the web site for the SSA and discovered that it may be true. I may not be as impoverished as I thought. Not quite. Wish me luck as I try to figure out how to apply without appearing at the nearest SSA office, as that seems to be the only way to go.

Now, let’s get on with it.

Here is That Flower which I can never remember the name of:

There is a big vine full of them right outside my front door alongside the Night Blooming Jasmine, which I can’t smell any more (interesting story there if you can find it on MPBM). The filter I used is a nice outliner. I’m going  to try it for cartooning.

Here are some of my orchids harassed by the Bad Dream filter:

I still can’t decide if I like the effect or not.

Regulars here will recognise my favourite orange lily:

This filter is a pretty good posteriser. Posterisation is simply the reduction of the number of colours in an image. This one I do like.

I can’t remember the name of the filter which I used for this image. I call the resulting image Coleus on Acid:

It is dramatic enough.

And this is one of my many, many Bird of Paradise plants:

This one has been chewing magic mushrooms since late last night. Its consciousness has now fully expanded.

A yellow flower with dew drops. How prosaic. The filter also is likewise subtle, but insistent:

This one may be my favourite. I can’t decide.

No, I could  decide, but I’m not making any more decisions today.

It’s 23:35 and I’m going to try to go to sleep.

Wish me luck with that, eh?

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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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Look Through My Kaleidoscope

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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Before I get started showing you the ten rather odd images for today, I’ll tell you what prompted my thinking about looking through things. Since I returned from Australia, I’ve been suffering from a variety of physical and mental ailments, most of which have never been problems before. One of them is paranoia. I’m not feeling weirded out by this, considering the number of very bad things which have happened recently in my life. It seems obvious that one might rightly feel a bit of paranoia under such circumstances.

For example:  I can see well enough to navigate around the house without my glasses, but I would not dare to drive and reading is impossible. I was certain that I had my last pair of glasses tucked safely away somewhere as a backup in case I lost my current pair. “Somewhere” is the catch word. I suppose that whether one might consider this to be a “very bad thing” depends on one’s personal evaluation, but all that I can say is that I simply could not stop thinking about it. After ever more frantic searches, I cannot find them. At least a hundred times the thought popped into my head, “Just ask Eunie.” Well, that’s not gonna happen. It makes my heart pound whenever my mind slips like that. It feels like running full tilt into a brick wall.

Anyway, I pictured losing my glasses and having to ask someone to fly with me to Australia for a new pair of prescription specs. It did not occur to me that there might be a simpler solution. Then I met Dr. John up at Blueblood last week. I discovered that he is an Optometrist with the Fred Hollows Foundation of New Zealand here in Madang. He told me that they could fit me with standard, ready-made glasses which should work well. I got an eye exam at the Fred Hollows Clinic yesterday. I walked out with three pairs of nice glasses. One pair is for distance, driving, boating, and so forth. A second pair is for computer work. It works best at arm’s length. The third pair is for close-up work or reading.

So, I now no longer need to fear losing my glasses. As soon as I can afford it, I’ll go back and get two additional sets of specs. I’ll leave one at the office and stash the other in a safe (and remembered) place in the house. My total investment will be about K180 (roughly US$60.00). Now I have one less fear on the list. It was small, but it was nagging. I was forever laying my glasses down and forgetting where they were. Eunie would always find them for me.

This episode left me thinking, “Just how stupid am I?”

Okay, having disposed of that item and reminding myself that other difficulties may also have simple solutions, if I can only discover them, let’s proceed with the gaggle of weird images for today.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by kaleidoscopes. I could spend an unreasonable amount of time staring through my grandmother’s very fancy dream maker. It sent my mind on mini-trips to strange and wonderful places. I’ve seen many computer generated multi-mirror images. Most of them do not please me much. I did get a little inspired by the work of Kathleen Farago May in her guest shot on MPBM, though the images lacked real-world components. I Googled for Photoshop plugins designed to create kaleidoscope images and got lucky on the first try with the Mehdi Kaleidoscope Plugin, which is free. I was immediately hooked. Here is a very amusing view of a Juvenile Oriental Sweetlips:

The presence of recognisable real-world images makes the kaleidoscope idea work for me.

Here is another featuring a Butterflyfish:

I wanted more.

Okay, it’s getting even better with this Yellowmargin Triggerfish:

I really like the background pattern in this one. It makes the Triggerfish leap off the screen.

From the same post as the one above, we have Jo Noble free diving:

The centre is quite abstract. As the eye moves out it suddenly encounters the lovely, graceful form of the diver.

A little more abstract, but still realistic is the Green Coral image from just a few days ago:

I have to admit that not much was gained from kaleidoscoping this one. I like the original image better.

This one is maybe my favourite of the bunch. The starfish pops out from the seemingly abstract background:

That one if from Saturday at the Office.

I call this one Hands Across the Water. It’s a kaleidoscopic view of a cartoon treatment of my friend, Carol Dover:

This effect is a little strange. It makes me a bit dizzy.

Here is another one which can make your head spin. When doing human forms you have to watch out for “creepy” artefacts:

The face effects in this one are interesting, but the strange blobs which came along for the ride are a little disturbing.

This one of Ush playing with a shell is less creepy, but even more head-spin inducing:

Kaleidoscoping faces is obviously a little tricky.

What about whole people? My initial experiments didn’t yield much that was pretty, except for the one of Jo Noble. I decided to keep trying. Reducing the number of mirrors seems to be the trick. Here is a much modified image of Jenn Miller floating languidly in the sea at Pig Island:

All of these were surprisingly easy to create and the process doesn’t take much time. I did discover that not every image makes a good kaleidoscope pattern. It seems to work best if the subject is clearly defined against the background. Otherwise, it gets all jumbled up.

You can take it a step further and create purely abstract patterns very easily, but the original image is lost in the multiple reflections very quickly, if you are not careful.

It’s fun to have a new toy. Especially if it was free.

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A Self-Portrait

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on October 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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It’s been quite a while since I posted daily. I don’t have any immediate plans to get back to that, despite the continuing tag line of “A Daily Journal of a Permanent Resident of Paradise”. However, I found myself at loose ends for an hour or so this afternoon before I go over to the Country Club (where I am not a member, but I sneak in) for some much needed exercise. Yes, MadDog is going running this afternoon. The sky is falling.

This will be a short one. It’s been a long time since I did a self-portrait. It’s good practice for a photographer to work with a subject which he sees every day. I like to do one every few years, just to remember how to do it right and to record what has happened to my mug. Well, it’s shocking!

How did I get so old? I still entertained wild notions of some lingering attractiveness. Sadly, there is no evidence of that. I had no intention of looking so glum. I was going for pensive. I ended up with “prisoner of war”:

I’m not feeling nearly as bad as I look. The last few days may have marked a minor turn-around for me.

I’m optimistic, but it’s still to early to tell.

Now, if I could only get some sleep.


The Wonderful Distraction – Fake Art

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on October 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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There are so many things which I’d like to say. However, now I am falling just short of  finding the words to articulate these things. I never really believed that some thoughts were inexpressible. I’m learning much about life lately. It seems a bit late for a grammar school education about Getting Along in Life. Today’s lesson is about being tongue-tied, mute, unable to find the expressions, analogies and idioms to translate the thoughts spinning in my head into English. I’m writing this on Friday, the eighth of October. If you’ve been following, you will recognise that day as being singularly significant. Not to put too fine a point on it, one month ago my wife went to claim her reward.

Yes, today is a bit of a hard day. I arose early and called in to the office after 08:00 to beg a day off. I have music and pictures to prepare for the memorial service tomorrow. Our office staff have been infinitely understanding and supportive. Lorraine Collins, a dear friend who lived in Madang for some time has flown in from Cairns to come to the service and stay a few days in the company of old friends. She came over to have lunch with me. Afterward, we watched a movie. I was glad for the company and the distraction.

It’s a good thing that I did have company today. I would otherwise buried myself in work and not have had the chance to sit with a friend and quietly talk about what is happening to all of us. It is  a shared experience. I can’t imagine that it would be more intimate if I were were with my blood family. So, speaking of things left to do today, I’ll get on with tomorrow’s post. Yes, I’m writing this on Friday. I’ll schedule the post to go out tomorrow. I do not know what tomorrow will bring to me.

I took a couple of hours of otherwise wasted time last night to do something other than attempting to sleep. It seemed mindless, but more emotionally useful to look through images from past posts and turn them into fake art. Sometimes it is better to do something completely useless. It gives one the feeling of wasting time usefully. And so, since I can’t transfer my feelings to the computer screen, I’ll give you fake art instead.

Here is Honey the aged mare from Honey, Beast and Other New Friends:

Honey and I got along well. This may have been because, in horse years, she is my age. We understood each other. Most of these images will require you to click to enlarge to see the effect of the Photoshop filters which I used to create the fake art images. This one had a light treatment with Poster Edges, just enough to punch up the edges a little and give it some texture.

I finished all of my chatter at the beginning, so I’ll simply show you the rest of the images with my brief comments about how I made them.

This is a shot of a diver’s bubbles with a glass block effect applied:

It is more interesting if you enlarge it.

When we were in Fiji earlier this year I got this image of Bougainvillia overhanging the hotel pool. It’s a delicious mix of colours made all the more yummy but the Watercolour filter:

Reducing the number of colour values in the image by increasing the posterisation effect in the filter creates some interesting patterns in the water.

Still in Fiji, here is an image from The Nadi Temple – A Feast for the Eyes:

This is a more severe flogging of the image with the Poster Edges filter. It is very posterised, using only a few colours from the millions available. The edges are extremely accentuated. This gives a nice poster effect.

Here are some orchids from my garden. I wanted a mild distortion effect, in this case the Watercolour filter, and I also wanted to bring the flowers dramatically forward in the image:

The Watercolour filter worked a treat. Bringing the flowers forward proved to be far simpler than I had thought it would be. All I had to do was reduce the saturation of the green tones in the background, reducing them to near monochrome. This piece turned out better than I though it would.

This Phyllidia ocellata  nudibranch makes a perfect subject for a cut out. The black background makes the absurd colours of this outlandish critter pop:

Nice design for a black t-shirt, eh? A touch of the Poster Edges filter gave the nudi an interesting texture.

Finally, I’ll toss in another nice piece by Lindsay Smith. Take note that I do not include Lindsay’s work in the fake art category. Lindsay actually sketches. Oh, that I had such talent:

Lindsay sketched this lovely lady over a background of my image of an oil slick on the water in front of my house. I enjoy seeing such imaginative uses of my photographs.

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Guest Shooter Alison Raynor – Fiddling With Her Images

Posted in Guest Shots, Photography Tricks on August 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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I found it impossible to post yesterday. I spent most of the day running around frantically trying to gather last-minute paperwork to send to the insurance company. I finally sent a twenty-three page fax. This makes a total of seventy-three pages of documentation I have sent. I’ll have more information for interested readers at the end of the post.

Thanks to Alison Raynor for sending me a couple of beautiful images of Sunrise at Mt. Beppo in Queensland not far from where she lives in Toogoolawah. The images were only 800 pixels, so I didn’t have much to work with, but they are so pretty that I could not resist them. I was also grateful to have someone else’s work to show, as I have no time to dig through my own to put together a decent post.

This one had some electrical wires in it that I had to remove. It’s a lovely, peaceful scene:

The lighting is unusual, but it has a very natural feel.

I could not resist turning it into a watercolour. It has just the right composition and tonal qualities for a painting:

I particularly like the contrast and the way that the rays of light on the right are accentuated.

This shot is a real beauty. All I had to do with it was pump up the vibrance and contrast and adjust the colours just a bit to make it look good on the black background:

As with the other shot, the lighting lends a wonderful naturalness to the scene.

And, of course, I had to fiddle with this one also. Again, the watercolour filter in Photoshop gave the effect that I wanted.  Not all images look good when faked as art. These two worked very nicely:

The arty effect on this one is more obvious if you click to enlarge it.

In case you’re wondering about Mt. Beppo, here is a Google Earth image of where it is:

You can click to enlarge and put in the coordinates of it or just put “mt beppo queensland australia” in the Google Earth search box.

Thanks Ali, for providing me with two very nice images to amuse our readers and myself. Thanks also for your call last night putting me onto the best air fares to get to Brisbane.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tomorrow, we fly to Brisbane in the morning. Our friend Val Jerram will meet us and take us to her house in Gympie. I hope that Eunie does okay on the trip. We have to make a stopover for a couple of hours in Townsville.

Eunie has appointments for tests beginning on September 3.  She will have an MRI and some other kind of scan – I think an MRI involving a contrast dye. She then has appointments on the 6th and 7th with two other doctors. At last the ball is rolling.

I’ve mentioned several times the lovely apartment that we have stayed in since we have been in Brisbane. I want to acknowledge and extend our deepest gratitude to our dear friends of many years in Madang, Mike and Di Cassell for putting out the welcome mat for the very pleasant and convenient accommodation provided to us as a gift of love.

We have always had a deep sense of family with our closest friends in Madang. Never have I felt it more and never have we needed it more.  There is nothing like being in deep need to find out who your real friends are.


Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on August 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today’s post won’t be windy. I’m winded. I had no idea that I was going to be so busy and feel as if I’m accomplishing so little. Yesterday evening was our last night with Trevor and Karen, who came down to Cairns to visit us. It was, of course, bittersweet. We left Eunie alone for a while to get pizzas to bring back to the room to eat while we watched a couple of movies.

Naturally, I had my camera with me and there is no such a thing as killing time if you have your camera in your hand. You can divert your attention to creating something, even if it is inconsequential. As I saw the variety of lights on the Esplinade, I got to thinking about lights. Brilliant, eh?

Man’s lights and the lights of nature – both illuminate. Some of man’s lights are beautiful. Think of the streams of glory from a stained glass window or the adrenaline beauty of fireworks. Others are horrid, such as the deadly flash of a thermonuclear bomb. Nature too provides a variety of lights, benign, such as the moon, or nurturing or deadly as chance may be in the sun’s rays:

Some of man’s lights are open to a wide range of artistic interpretation. Here I captured the tail lights of passing cars in a fifteen second exposure with the camera rather shakily balanced on top of a post:
The cars are mere streaks. Most people have blurred into non-existence. As I looked at the image in the preview, the title came to me instantly. Watch Long Enough – Everything Changes.

But some lights are different. They illuminate, but not through the sensations of the eyes. They illuminate the soul.

I positioned myself quite a distance away for this shot, so I think that I can honestly say that it is candid:Trevor and Karen dropped everything that they were doing, blew a bunch of hard-earned cash, and came to be with friends to share our suffering, cheer us up , provide necessary counsel, cry with us, laugh with us and shine some much needed light on the subject of hope. This is not to mention the practical details which Karen helped Eunice with – ones which I am not yet ready to face.

How many friends can you count that would do that?

This is the light of treasure.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I wish that I had some news today. Eunie stayed up late last night watching movies and went to bed happy. Her colour seems to be improving – she’s less yellow. Her appetite has also improved. These are good signs for her strength which she is going to need in the future. We have not yet heard from the oncologist about our move to Brisbane, but it is only Tuesday afternoon as I write this. My own condition is fragile and I know that I cannot allow this to continue. I know that I will be better able to cope when we are in Brisbane with our friend Val, because she is a strong, take-charge woman and takes no nonsense from me. I will have to toughen up considerably to keep her from beating me up for being a wimp.

After decades of softening myself, sensitising myself, growing absurdly empathetic and always, always, learning that the more I give the more of what I need that I receive, I find myself now suddenly weak and ineffectual in situations where I need to be forceful and decisive.

It is a puzzlement.

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