Tucumcari, New Mexico – The Blue Swallow Motel

Posted in On Tthe Road on August 13th, 2012 by MadDog
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I managed to skip posting for the entire month of July. Some may have fretted over my passing, but I’ve simply been in too fine a mood to complain about anything. July found Gracie and I to be wandering Gypsies. A work trip to Dallas was followed in a week by Waterloo, Illinois to visit kids and to report to supporters about my new work as a Media Arts Specialist for Pioneer Bible Translators.

Both voyages were long road trips. We bought a couple of books from Audible.com to ease the road tedium. Conversations take you only so far. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. was an excellent listen. I read it many years ago. We followed that with The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by neurologist Oliver Sacks. This audo book required a bit more attention, so I had to concentrate on my driving. Grace got a great deal from it, since it was right up her alley.

I couldn’t talk about our road trips to Dallas without mentioning Tucumcari, New Mexico and especially the Blue Swallow Motel. Tucumcari, whose residents number only about five thousand, is what I would call a “wide spot in the road.” Its existence seems mostly attributed to attention to the convenience of travelers. There probably would not be a Tucumcari were it not for the railroad. Here is how Tucumcari came to be, according to Wikipedia:

In 1901, the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad built a construction camp in the western portion of modern-day Quay County. Owing to numerous gunfights, the camp became known as Six Shooter Siding. After it grew into a permanent settlement, it was renamed Tucumcari in 1908. The name was taken from Tucumcari Mountain, which is situated near the community.

Yes, the railroad was the famous Rock Island Line of folk music fame. While I’m on the subject, have a listen to a recording of the song by a group from the Italian rockabilly scene, Wheels Fargo and the Nightengale.

But, I digress. Getting back to Tucumcari, a long road trip and where to lay your head, brings up the subject of The Blue Swallow Motel. This goes on my list of amusing funky places to sleep. Built in 1939 when the idea of “motor hotel” meant that you had to have your own personal garage for the family buggy (more later), it has probably fallen on hard times more than once, but has recently been revived but not unduly modified by nice owners Nancy and Kevin to maintain the flavor of the place without excessively destroying the patina of ageless Route 66 cool.

I can’t imagine any better way to express my tribute to The Blue Swallow Motel than this shot, of which I’m rather proud, of the grand automobile entryway done in the style of the Photorealists. Yeah, I know it’s not a painting. I’m not that talented. I’m just a copycat.

If you are ever in Tucumcari and seeking culture you should consider The Blue Swallow. Frankly, it’s not a place you might want to stay for a week if you are accompanied by a lady who takes her beauty shop science seriously. Gracie was certainly amused by the ambiance, but complained that the bathroom had little in the way of “chick space.” This is not your star spangled Hilton. It is, however, immaculately clean and charmingly adorned with furnishings of the period. What it lacks in accoutrements is more than made up for by American Road Trip style.

As are many structures in Tucumcari, The Blue Swallow’s flat spaces are splashed with folksy Americana.

Everywhere you look are scenes familiar to anyone over the age of sixty. The place appeals to the jaded road warrior.

If your car is not much bigger than that of a pre-war chariot you can make use of your personal carriage house, the walls of which are illustrated with more adorable American kitsch.

If you are ever in Tucumcari, at least have a look at the Blue Swallow Motel. I imagine that there is nothing else like it left.

Well, except for the Petrified Wood Station in Decatur, Texas. It dates from the same general era, having received its raggedy coat of rather poor quality petrified wood in 1935. It doesn’t sell gas any more. The owner uses it as his private office.

On our way to Phoenix while the Gladiator Fire was at its peak I got this shot.

We were a long way from the Highway, so I needed all 300mm of lens. The air was very smoky. I had to massage the shot severely with some nice oily Photoshop.

I love wind machines. Parts of the Southwest are littered with them. We see hundreds on our trips from Sedona to Dallas. You can tell when you’re getting close to a big wind farm because the trees are permanently bent in one direction – the prevailing wind. In this shot, the wind was blowing strongly. It amused me that these two wind turbines were turning in nearly exact synchronization.

And now a picture of a squirrel, for no reason whatsoever.

We have one exactly like this living in our big walnut tree beside the garage. I haven’t managed to get a shot of her yet, so this will have to do. This squirrel lives at Montezuma’s Castle, which I hope to cover in a future post. Our squirrel is madly collecting walnuts and burying them in the most unlikely locations.

Also, just because I can, I’ll show you Datura or Angel’s Trumpet, a psychotropic plant that will put you into medical care if you try to get high by eating it. It’s a member of the family Solanaceae, many species of which are toxic and some of which are tasty, including tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and eggplant.

I suppose it is called the Angel’s Trumpet because that is what you may hear if you eat it.

While we’re at it we may as well see a House Finch (a few of which I hear tweeting now through the open patio door) sitting on a still folded blossom of a Saguaro cactus.

The House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) is by far the most common bird around our feeder. What they lack in spectacular colors they make up for in numbers.

Finally, a bee feeding frenzy. When the Prickly Pear cacti are blooming the bees get busy.

I count three inside the blossom and one waiting impatiently to dive in.

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Bees, Bugs, Buddha Beach

Posted in Arizona Images, Photography Tricks on June 7th, 2012 by MadDog
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One year and a week ago I arrived in Sedona for a visit. I’m still here. It’s going to be a very long visit. It makes my head spin to think that I’ve been here for a year. It seems impossible.

I’ve been enjoying the delights of my new Canon EF 100mm ƒ2.8 L IS USM 1-to-1 Macro Lens. A few days ago I hiked along the highway leading from Sedona to The Village of Oak Creek where we live. When the new highway was built the county agreed to plant high desert wildflowers along the way as a part of the deal for funds. Though we have had a very dry spring, it is still beautiful. We’ve had no rain since the last snow melted. Yellow flowers predominate this time of year and bees were busy everywhere:On the side of our house I saw the latest alien to vacate its flying saucer and to take up residence in Sedona:

It’s easy to see this as some sort of machine.

I found this incredibly tiny grasshopper, about 4mm long, crawling around on my Sweet Basil. It was very adept at avoiding my camera lens. I finally had to coax it out onto the pavement to get a shot:

While hiking down Oak Creek from Red Rock Crossing with Jo Noble, our visitor from England, we came upon a man who suggested we follow the trail for another mile to a place called Buddha Beach. There is a middling-sized pool there and a long sandy beach. Just inside the scrubby forest there is a large area of rounded river rocks. Visitors there have erected thousand of small stone cairns. The image below is a compilation of about eighty shots processed with Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor) and uploaded to Microsoft Photosynth:

I’ve heard some complaints that such activities ruin the natural beauty of the area. I think that’s a little picky. The next time Oak Creek floods, if we ever get any rain, these will all be put back into their proper places.

On the way I saw this tiny blue flower sticking up from the earth with no leaves of any kind, just the stem. It was about the size of a pencil eraser:I think I see the empty shell of some insect hanging from the lower petal.

Okay, things are getting pretty random now. Here is a Madang sunrise that will soon be printed out on a seven by two foot canvas to be mounted in the corner of our bathroom over the Jacuzzi. I’ll put up a picture of it when I get it hung. Gracie has art all over the house, so I’m presently consigned to hanging my work in the bathroom:I’ll have to make a point of offering  the “master” bathroom to visitors when they are of a mind to refresh themselves.

Wandering further afield, I’ll show you a picture from our visit to Glendale Glitters, a mid-winter festival held in Glendale, Arizona each year. What you see here is only a small portion of a large park set alight. I can’t even imagine putting up all of those bulbs. They are electronically controlled so that the light patterns change and move about on the trees:Finally, I’ll show you Jo’s nice legs, which she, quite unreasonably, says that she hates. I don’t get it:She was standing on some rocks in Oak Creek in her cute runners and her Air New Zealand freebie socks. I had to lay down on my side on the creek bank to get this shot of her with a few cairns in the background. I used the Oil Paint filter in Photoshop CS6 to give the image some interesting twisty-ness. It’s becoming my favorite. It’s easily the most versatile and amusing one-click artistic enhancement filter in Photoshop. Its combination of sliders offer a cornucopia of effects varying from subtle to goofy.

We’re off to Dallas tomorrow for a week of conferences and integration with the Media Arts Team who are my coworkers in my new job. I’ve been working on an assignment for a few weeks. It’s time to get the bugs out and produce the first project of my fresh start.

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Jazzing Up Your Image – The Process

Posted in On Tthe Road, Photography Tricks on April 22nd, 2011 by MadDog
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Once again, as you read this, I will likely have been stuffed into a long metal tube with a huge mob of other flesh and bone humans and am presently leaving a trail of noxious fumes across the frigid night sky between Honolulu and Phoenix. At Phoenix, I’ll hustle from one winged meat wagon to another and arrive, hungry, tired and lonely in Indianapolis. I pray the ground will not be white. I’ll be greeted by an old friend who will house and feed me for my time in Indy. My life today depends pretty much on the love of friends. That’s a good thing. It keeps me going, sometimes even when I’d rather not go.

Faithful reader DogsDon’tPurr commented that she would like to see some step-by-step illustrations of how a digital image is processed in order to produce a more pleasing image, according to the likes of the photographer. I had to think that over for all of five minutes. I’m pretty much running out of material here in Honolulu, so I grabbed a couple of illustrative images from my camera and recorded intermediate steps in my processing so that I can show the steps which I take to prepare my images for presentation. If you feel yourself getting drowsy, switch to another channel.

I don’t suggest that my method of working with images is any better than anyone else’s. Each image maker needs to tailor a sequence which feels right. I used Photoshop for these images, but similar results can be achieved with any image manipulation program, providing it has tools sufficient for the task.

I chose the first image to make a point. The shot as it comes from the camera does not need to be perfect. That’s why we have software to fix them. Practically nothing gets from my camera directly to these pages. I fiddle with every image until I’m happy with it. I took this yesterday evening at sunset from the apartment of a friend:

As it is, it’s a throw-away. There are so many problems with it that I’d bore you to list them. In fact, it’s so bad that I knew from experience that I would never end up with an image which looked “natural”, so I had it in mind from the beginning to go for the “vintage postcard” look. With an image like this, that’s what you’ll end up with anyway, so it’s best to just go with the flow.

First I lightened it up a bit and straightened the buildings.

Next, I had to decide what portion of the image I really wanted in the finished product. I used a cropping tool to remove the obtrusive building to the right and a little of the building on the left along with some of the bottom of the shot:

Now that I look at it on the page, I wish I’d removed the small building on the right also. I could easily make it vanish, but I’ll leave that for another time. What’s left is what I want to show. That’s cropping.

Then I lightened up the lower part of the image because all detail was buried in the shadows. Photoshop has a special tool for lightening up dark parts and darkening light parts in the same operation. I use it often for such images:

Now I can see some detail in the dark part at the bottom, but the colour is dismal.

So, I go to work on it with a tool that allows me to modify the hue of selected colours. I’m dealing mostly with green, so I need to take magenta out and add lots of cyan and yellow:

In the same operation I also took some cyan out of the red, which richend and warmed the sky a bit. The greens are now much brighter, but there is already an artificial look to the image, because I’m trying to create something from nothing. Now we’re crossing over into interpretation. I’m making it up as I go.

Next, I lightened the entire image. Then I used a special selection tool in Photoshop to select only the sky and I increased the saturation and contrast. This livened up the sky considerably:

I also lightened up the buildings and increased the contrast to give them some depth.  In this step I had to fix each little balcony on the building on the left. Some of them had furniture on them. I removed it all. You may have to click to enlarge to see what I’m talking about. You may note that I brightened up the lights in the buildings.

After looking at the image for a while I decided I may as well go the final step in jazzing it up. I did not like the strong blue cast in the clouds on the horizon, so I desaturated them to make them grey, leaving just the tops bluish. I also selected the top third of the image and made a graduated edge on the selection (I “faded” it on the bottom edge). I darkened this area to make the sky more dramatic. It’s an old movie trick:

There we have it. A “Vintage Postcard” shot from Honolulu. And, this proves the point:


For the next demo, I decided to use an example of an image which is not so shabby right out of the camera. You could print this water lily shot and put it in your photo album with reasonable pride. It’s a “lucky” shot:

Ah, some, however, are never satisfied. I can see the possibilities, but it needs some work. This is a sister image to one I put on these pages a while ago. The bee is just facing the other way.

First, I brightened up the entire image and cropped it so that it conforms more to my sense of composition which is biased strongly towards the Rule of Thirds (if you don’t know, you can use my search box):

On my Canon G11 I tend to shoot images slightly underexposed as it seems to give me better saturation of the colours. Maybe I’m dreaming. It’s just a feeling. I haven’t done any side-by-side comparisons to prove it. While I’m rambling photographically, I’ll mention that I’m going crazy trying to edit images on this five year old Toshiba notebook. The screen is horrible. The slightest change of angle changes the contrast drastically and the room lighting makes a dramatic difference. I know the quality of my images has suffered since I left my huge, high quality graphics monitor in Madang. It’s an ancient Sony CRT terminal, but I love it.

The difference in the next image is subtle. If you look at the centre of the blossom, it will appear less colourful than the image before. It may appear to be a step backward:

What I was doing was changing the balance of colours in the center to bring up some subtle shading which was barely discernable in the original. I’ll fix the drabness in the next step, but if I did that first, I’d be unable to get back the shading in the centre which makes the details there more visible.

Here I’ve restored the vibrancy of the colours and sharpened the detail. The greens were still pretty dull and there was little to work with there. I jazzed them up as much as I could without making them look too fake:

I also selectively brought out the bee by brightening only the mid-brightness areas, leaving the shadows dark. For “naturalness”, I’d call this image finished.

Yet, the image still lacked zing. After scratching my head for a while, I decided to abandon all caution and dip into the Artistic Filters in Photoshop. For this shot I chose Poster Edges and applied it with some restraint:

It’s easy to go too far with Poster Edges. All I wanted was just a bit more outlining of the petals and a little more definition of the detail in the centre of the blossom.

There. It’s done.

I’ve known a great number of people who had a good eye for an image and produced great pictures, but were unhappy with their images for a variety of reasons. All of these vague dissatisfactions can be evaporated by a little patience learning to use a few tools in an image editing program. One doesn’t have to spend anything to get in the game. There are lots of free choices. Though not as slick, GIMP is a good editing program that will do just about everything that Photoshop will do, at least the things that a sane person would want.

I’ve taught many people to edit their images in just a few sessions of an hour or two. Once one is “over the hump” of the learning curve, self instruction is easy, considering the huge number of free tutorials available on the web.

The initial learning process can be a little frustrating, as I do not allow one to write down keystroke-by-keystroke instructions. I have found that rapid progress and retention come from understanding the process rather than memorizing the steps. I’ve also found that a glass of nice Merlot makes the whole learning experience much more enjoyable for both student and teacher.

Imagine that.

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Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on July 23rd, 2010 by MadDog
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Today it’s all about flowers, none of which I know the names of, unless you accept “lily” in a generic sense. I know that two of these species have been identified in comments by readers. This is exasperating. I can’t remember the species names so I can’t enter them in the search box to find them. There are now 875 posts here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi, so it’s impossible to search through them to find the one which had the comment which identified the flower. I’m going to have to figure out a system to go back and tag these reader identifications so that I can find them. This is getting complicated!

I’ll start off Flowermania with this “Crazy White Star Plant”. I’m sure that there is a word for “flower lovers” – something which ends in “philia”, but I can’t find that either. Did I take my stupid pills twice this morning? I can’t remember. Anyway, this is a cool image to click on to see the interesting little bee with his pollen holsters filled with the tasty orange stuff:

You can see an image of the whole plant in Crazy White Star Plant.

Here is one that hasn’t appeared here before, because this is the first successful image which I’ve managed:

Some flower petals are so intensely pigmented that the dynamic range of the camera sensors gets saturated with that certain colour before anything else gets a good dose of light. At least that’s what I think is happening. In an image of such a flower you will see no detail in these oversaturated areas unless you are very careful with your initial exposure and you pay close attention to what you are doing in Photoshop. Getting any detail at all in the red petals of this flower had me trying every trick I know.

This is another flower which I know that some reader has identified, but I can’t find the reference. I think it’s got the word “glory” in it someplace:

They grow in clusters, as you can see here.

This is a single new blossom:

You can see the stamens arrayed out in a six-point star and the pistil sticking out to the right as if it doesn’t know where it’s supposed to go. I suspect that this is an insect pollinated flower.

Here is a blossom a few days old:

If you click to enlarge, you can barely see the developing ovary at the bottom end of the downcurving stem, just behind stamen which is extending down to the right of the flower stem.

I can’t do a post on flowers without including our orange lilies:

As I was wandering around in the garden I found this one leaning up against the trunk of one of our banana trees. It struck me as a very nice composition. Since it cost me nothing, I take it with gratitude.

I was so inspired by this composition of unlikely partners that I felt that familiar compulsion to turn it into fake art. This one is definitely worth clicking on to blow it up:

It came up beautifully using the Poster Edges filter in Photoshop on the full sized image.

I’m not going to do anything as satisfying as that for the rest of the day, I’m sure. So, since today is a holiday and I’m off work and it’s noon (okay, 11:00), I’m going for a beer.

Have an enjoyable Remembrance Day!

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A SCUBA Diving Bee?

Posted in Under the Sea on July 6th, 2010 by MadDog
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This morning I was out stumbling around in my garden looking for something to shoot. I was nearly ready to give up, not having found anything that I haven’t already snapped a hundred times, when I came across this small bee wearing a SCUBA diver’s mask:

It’s only Tuesday and I’m already running out of material. When I start pulling your chain about diving bees, you can tell that I am desperate. Yeah, I know that it’s silly, but look at its eyes. I have never seen a bee, or any other insect, with eyes such as this. They are huge. They also have an unusual shape, which I suspect give it an enormous field of vision. This makes me think that it is possibly an insectivorous bee. A bee which hunts on the wing would need exceptional vision. It also does not resemble the standard, flower-visiting bee. I watched it for some time. It was showing no interest in all of the flowers around it. In fact, it gave the distinct impression of a hunter lying in ambush.

UPDATE: Faithful reader and friend Alison Raynor has already nailed down the identification of this bee. It seems that I coulnd’t have been more wrong. Oh, wel. It’s not the first time:

Blue-banded bees (Amegilla cingulata) are native to Australia, but also occur naturally in Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Indonesia and Malaysia. Unlike other bee species, blue-banded bees are solitary insects. They typically build nests in sandstone, mud or the mortar-gaps in the brickwork of houses.

Blue-banded bees specialise in an unusual sort of flower pollination called ‘buzz pollination’. Normally flowers release pollen passively, but some species are specially designed to be pollinated by ‘buzz pollinators’ that grab onto the flowers and vibrate them quickly to release the pollen.

Okay, the bee doesn’t dive, but I do. I ran through some more frames from our dive at The Eel Garden last Saturday and found a few which may amuse, if not amaze you.

Though this will probably mean little to you, I can testify that this is an unusual image. This Sea Cucumber (Thelenota anax)  does not belong on this bumpy coral. It is a creature which gobbles up sand by the bucket, runs it through its innards, sifting out the digestible bits, and then excretes the sand out of its other end:

Why it is wandering around up here on this coral shelf, metres away from its feeding ground, I have no idea.

The lower fish, whiskering around in the sand, is a Goatfish, specifically a Parupeneus forsskali:

They feed by bulldozing around in the sand, throwing up big clouds of “dust” and using their whiskers to find food. The other fish is a Redbreasted Wrasse (Cheilinus fasciatus),  a fish which usually stays far enough away to be difficult to shoot. It is not unusual to find other fish hanging around where a goatfish is feeding. They often stir up items which do not interest them, but other fish find tasty.

This is a Longnose Butterflyfish (Forcipiger flavissimus):

It’s not a particularly good shot, but my excuse is, as usual, they try to stay at a distance. How they calculate the distance at which it becomes nearly impossible to shoot them, I don’t know. They must know more about cameras than I do.

This is a reather handsome Soldierfish named Myripistis amaena.  His friends call him Misty. He has a gender identity problem. That’s why he wears the butch outfit:

Chain mail is very “in” at the bars where he hangs.

You are undoubtedly tired of the Phyllidia varicosa  nudibranch. Well, you may as well get used to it, because it is one of our more common varieties and I haven’t got the absolutely perfect image on one yet:

I’ll let you know when I do.

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From Bilums to Bees

Posted in Mixed Nuts on June 12th, 2010 by MadDog
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Inspiration failed to appear this morning and I was weary of trolling through images for fresh fish. Today is Dive Day, anyway, so I’ll have new images with which to play later today. Before I get to my stroll in the garden this morning, I’ll show you this bright collection of the iconic bit of Papua New Guinea art known in Tok Pisin  as a bilum.

A bilum  is simply a string bag. However, it is the Queen of String Bags. There are as many patterns as there are minds to dream them:Above is a small section of the display of the hundreds which are available at the main market in Madang Town every day. They used to sell for a pitifully small price. I’m glad that the people who make them and their agents at the marked have demanded higher prices. The amount of skill and labour which goes into the making of them is considerable. It deserves a proper payment.

In the garden this morning were the usual suspects. Here a tiny checker-board winged fly takes a snooze on a yellow flower:

I did not awake until 07:00 this morning, an unusual occasion. By the time I got out to the garden the golden light of the sun was intensifying nicely.

This flower was glowing furiously. The colour is all wrong. It was not red, but more of a violet colour. Some weird combination of factors prevented me from getting the correct colour. I’m going to have to investigate that:

It’s pretty enough as it is.

A stroll through the garden would not be satisfactory without a relaxing study of the orange lilies:

You may as well get used to these, because I am never going to cease finding new ways to display their beauty

I almost missed this small bee resting on a hibiscus leaf:

They usually fly away when I try to get my lens close enough for a good macro shot. This one seemed not to care. Possibly it was tired.

This is easily the shot of the day and a great example of photographer’s luck. Any fool can take pictures and most fools can do a pretty good job of it. Sometimes the difference is simply patience. I spent a full fifteen minutes squatting on the grass shooting frame after useless frame:

These bees are indeed busy, busy. They stay on each flower for an average of four or five seconds and then fly quickly to another. I feel like a big mackerel attacking a huge school of bait fish. Which one to chase?

Time to load the boat.

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Invasion of the Creepie-Crawlies

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on January 3rd, 2010 by MadDog
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I’m sitting here in my bedroom office writing the first post that I’ve been able to do from home for over a year. It’s taken me that long to get Telikom to fix my phone line so that it will pass data. It’s no secret here that Telikom is unresponsive to customer complaints and extremely slow to present technologies at the street level. Oh, sure there is lots of talk about fibre optic cables, wireless phones and WIFI adapters for web access. Talk is cheap. Telikom “introduced” wireless phones and USB devices for computers to receive WIFI signals about four months ago in Madang. They are still not available. The local manager tells me that this is a problem with getting the prepaid cards set up, but I’ve been getting that story, or variations of it, for several months.

By simple weekly harassment, I finally succeeded getting Telikom to replace the cable that was preventing connections in my area. I can now get a 28.8KBPS hookup that, if not speedy, is at least stable. That’s painfully slow by anybody’s standards, but I’m not even hoping for any improvement.

I’ll tell you the ridiculous aspect of the situation:  I actually feel grateful  to them for fixing it. Forget that it’s their job to provide the service. Forget that it took them years to do it. Forget that they’ve promised wireless access to the web for months and there is still no product on the street. If someone hit you over the head with a brick for fifteen minutes, how would you feel if suddenly the weapon was switched to a salami? You’d feel grateful,  that’s what.

Okay, enough of that.

These spiders that favour the yellow flowers in my garden draw my camera lens like a bee to honey. Though they are tiny, measuring less than a centimetre across, they are stationary subjects and quick to grab focus:

I’ve been shooting them for about a year now, wich I admit may seem a bit obsessive. However, I’m learning little tricks as I go. For these shots it was a bright day with plenty of light, so I set my Canon G9 to Aperture Priority and stopped the lens down to F8 to get maximum depth of field. This allows, up to a point, elements of the image which are closer or farther from the lens to remain in focus, eliminating blurry spots. For the shot above, I made sure that the background contained nothing close enough to be in focus, providing a nice blurry frame for the flower. What’s interesting to me, and keeps me fascinated enough to waste a lot of time doing it, is how many things that you have to think about during the processes and how intensely focused (pun intended) you have to be to accomplish the task.

One thing that I have noticed about getting older is that I know  that I’m not as quick mentally as I once was. I think that my judgment and temperament are improving over time, but I’m definitely not as mentally agile. I really believe that writing every day and fiddling with photography and the accompanying computer processes that are necessary to produce the effects that I like help me to hold my ground mentally.

In this shot all that was necessary was to crop out everything but the flower:

I’m still don’t understand the purpose of the web. How does it assist the spider? Creatures generally don’t waste precious energy doing things that do not directly benefit them. I’ve never witnessed a capture of the little flies that these spiders eat, so I haven’t seen if the web, which you can see if you click to enlarge, plays any part.

This is a family friendly site and it’s going to stay that way. So, if you don’t know what these flies are doing, please go ask your mommy right now. If you are an adult and you find this image offensive, I recommend that you rush out immediately and purchase a sense of humor:Maybe they are just good friends.

The next three shots are even more strange.

By any measure this is a very strange bug, indeed. Its body is as thin as a razor blade and shaped like a grenade. It has s frilly white border and a picture of a moth (or, is it an angel?)  on its back:

Ah, you want more, eh?

Okay, here’s one for you. I have it on good authority that this bug has been dropping acid daily for a solid month. Kiddies, if you don’t want to end up looking like this, stay away from that stuff; it’s really  bad for you:Had enough? I didn’t think so.

Okay, here is something that even I  have never seen before:Yes, Caroline, that is three bees fussing over the same flower. It’s not as if there is a shortage of flowers in my garden. Most of them spring up magically. Others are more deliberately introduced by Juli our haus meri,  who has a well developed sense of humor.

Well, I’d love to sit here and entertain you longer from the comfort of my cave, but I’m off to Blueblood to kill off the remainder of our splendid holiday season.


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