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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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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A Little Nature Walk in My Garden

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 13th, 2009 by MadDog
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I like to start off every day with a sunrise. Considering my proclivity for this, I must be the luckiest guy in the world. During most of the year, at least one day out of two will provide fodder for my famished camera. Some days are better than others, but every day is different.  This is part of my thinking time for the day. I usually get fifteen to thirty minutes to contemplate the newness of the day and what it might bring:

Weird orange glow sunrise

Then I have a little walk around my garden to see who’s awake and what they’re doing.

In the same bush in which I found a beautiful green lizard the other day, I spotted this tiny bug hiding under a leaf. The sun was shining through the leaf and making the little fellow glow. I tried to get the shot without flash, but there simply wasn’t enough light:

Some kind of little bug in my bush

The little guy is only about a centimetre long.

Over at the Bird of Paradise plants I found a similar sized spider. It kept trying to move around on the other side of the curled-up leaf to hide, but finally tired of that and submitted to my photographic zeal:

Itsy-bitsy Spider

The shot really appeals to me compositionally. Its simplicity is powerful. Getting one or two shots a day such as this one, which really pleases me, lifts me right off the ground. Photography is a powerful emotional stimulant for me. I must be neurotic. No, wait. Of course  I’m neurotic!

This spider is vainly attempting to hide from me. He nearly pulled it off, except that I saw it moving down from the flower on which it was waiting for a meal. You’ll see more of this little spider tomorrow:

Camoflaged spider trying to hide from me

I’ve featured this lovely green spider before here.

I never know which orchids in the garden are going to bloom next. The blooms last for an incredibly long time compared to most flowers, sometimes for a couple of weeks. I know absolutely nothing about orchids and I’m happy to allow them to be a mystery to me. I overanalyze the underwater world and pretend to be an expert. I think that it’s nice to appreciate some things without knowing everything about them. It leaves room for awe and wonder:

Orchids in my garden

The sun was coming in from the back of these blossoms. I turned my flash on to give a little fill light in the dark areas to punch up the colour. I’m quite happy with the shot.

The best thing about walking around in my garden with my camera is that, if I wake up the next morning, I know that something like this will be waiting for me.

"Blows My Mind" sunrise

Lucky? Blessed?

You choose.

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