More Macro Madness

Posted in Photography Tricks on April 22nd, 2012 by MadDog
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Life continues to be far busier than I imagined it might be here in Sedona. In fact, my hope of “simplifying” seems to be dashed. I sometimes thought that living in Madang was overly complex, considering the physical and social environment.  Our most common refrain was, “It’s always something!”, implying that just when things seem to be in control some forgotten detail or requirement rears up and makes its obnoxious presence known. It would be ungrateful of me to complain, so I’ll just make the observation that simply maintaining an existence in America is far more demanding of time, immensely more complex and requires the absorption much more information than does drifting through life in Madang. I’m barely keeping my head above water. I find that I barely or not at all understand much of what I’m doing. Most of the time I’m following the instructions of someone who’s paid to guide me through some thing or another and signing on the dotted line when required. I think I’m managing the big picture, but I’m being dragged along by the nitty-gritty.

Fortunately, I can escape the circus once in a while for an hour or so of  clear thinking and working my craft. It’s an amazing thing to have my hands on the kind of equipment I’ve always dreamed of. The title implies that this post is all about macro stuff, but I have some other images today. My Canon 70-300 zoomer has been neglected lately. It’s a workhorse lens with no particular glamorous features, though it performs its mundane tasks superbly, as this shot of a full moon rising behind a dead tree across the street attests:

Luna is partially obscured by a thin Cirrus cloud layer, softening the details of its topography and creating a soft halo. The tree is about 150 feet away and the moon is about 24,000 miles from the front of my lens. I might have stopped the lens down to ƒ32 and gotten them both in focus, but that would have required a tripod and a long exposure. This shot was taken at 300mm, ƒ22, 1/13 second with image stabilization. This combination just barely allowed me to capture the image hand-held.

Another task for which this workhorse lens excels is bird watching. Serious bird watchers will want more powerful zooms, but for my modest efforts this glass is my ticket to ride. We have some lovely birds visiting our back yard daily. One of my favorites is the Western Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica).  I tossed a handful of peanuts on the ground near the bird bath in the back yard, set up the Canon on a tripod and started recording HD video while I went about my business with other things:

The Western Scrub Jay from Jan Messersmith.

After about forty minutes I copied the video file to my laptop and edited out the blank spots, added a little public domain music and some titles. You can listen to the song of the Western Scrub Jay here.

Changing lenses now, I’ll blather on about my new favorite, the 100mm macro. This piece of glass is not simply a microscope for the little things. It’s a great all-round lens for many situations. I like the flattening effect of the mild zoom for portraits and its tack-sharp images and very wide range of apertures make it my favorite carry-around lens. Here’s an example of a “normal” shot in which the lens excels:

In the full resolution image from the camera the level of detail in this image is amazing. Even in the 2000 pixel wide shot, it conveys a lot of visual detail. A lens like this is really wasted on web images. It takes a full magazine page printed well to make it shine. I wish I was still in a position to sell some articles.

The shot above was taken at Red Rock Crossing, one of my favorite places for a calm walk in the woods. While walking down the shore of Oak Creek we came across an amazing example of fossil ripples in the red Schnebly Hill Sandstone formation:

After doing a little Googling on the subject I conclude that this example of fossil ripples is one of the best which is easy to visit. Here is a shot of another location nearby:

The 100mm focal length of the Canon macro lens is perfect for this shot. The slight foreshortening of distance accentuates the effect of the ripples in the red sandstone. We found three examples of the ripples within an area of a hundred feet or so.

Green being my favorite color and the high desert being particularly short of this shade, I’m snapping everything green that I can find:

Spring is coming on strong. I’m waiting for the rains which will hopefully paint the desert with flowers. I’m wishing for scenes reminiscent of the old Oscar-winning Walt Disney The Living Desert movie which I remember seeing when I was about ten years old, a very long time ago.

While I’m still showing big things shot with the macro lens I’ll show you a mysterious (to me, anyway) series of holes in a Schnebly Hill Sandstone layer at Bell Rock, a famous formation just on the edge of The Village of Oak Creek where we live:

It’s interesting to speculate what might have caused these holes. Being lined up in the same strata implies that whatever caused them was fairly brief in nature and rather unique, since I see no other examples in the area. My personal favorite explanation is that some event caused a large number of stream-rounded boulders of soft rock to be deposited more or less at once on the flat layer of material which later became the red sandstone of the area. When the Schnebly Hill Sandstone eroded, these soft rocks eroded more quickly, leaving the cavities. If you can do better than my guess, please wade in with a comment.

Here’s a nice shot of an ancient looking tree on the side of Bell Rock. The 100mm macro is a great lens for this kind of shot:

But, of course, the raison d’être for this chunk of glass is the little stuff:

Popping up everywhere in the desert are a variety of tiny blossoms which appear to me to be daisies of some kind. I’m hopelessly uninformed about the local flora. I’ve come from a place where I knew quite a bit to a place where I know nothing. (UPDATE – Within minutes of posting this I got word from my friend Anne-Marie Gregory in the UK that this is a Blackfoot Daisy – Melampodium leucanthum.)

But I I can appreciate the beauty and capture the images:

That will have to be enough for now. (UPDATE – Inspired by Anne-Marie, I found a good site for local wildflower identification. This look to me to be the Spreading Fleabane or Layered Daisy – Erigeron divergens.)

Cacti are mysterious to me. I never realized there are so many kinds:

There is no shortage of new things to learn about here in the high desert.

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The Village of Oak Creek

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 30th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’m surprised that I have posted only four times this month. The change of environment has affected me strongly. Grace is supposed to be “retired”, but it seems a very busy house to me. That makes me happy, because I’m finding ways to feel useful instead of being a passive couch surfer. Yesterday and today I struggled to keep my cool while applying reflective window film to several large panes of glass. I can’t think of too many do-it-yourself projects which are more potentially frustrating. The results are spectacular in terms of energy savings, but the task of putting the cantankerous stuff on the windows could test the patience of Job. I’m going to revive my furniture refinishing project tomorrow. It’s been stalled for a few days. After stripping the old finish from a table I discovered that several different colors of wood were patched together and covered by a dark finish. Now I have to figure out how to make it all match. Grrrr . . .

To calm me down we sometimes stroll through the neighborhood. Grace lives in The Village of Oak Creek. I don’t know what to call it. It seems to orbit lazily around some spectacular golf courses which are are regularly trampled by the rich and famous. The Ace Hardware store has a huge picture of Jackie Gleason strutting across a green. I’m going to have to find out what that’s all about. Here’s a Google Earth view of VOC (as you may have guessed, the Village of Oak Creek):

You can’t walk around VOC without being impressed. It’s simply impossible to ignore the scenery. We waked down to the dry wash at the end of Catclaw Lane, where Grace lives, and I turned around. I nearly fell over. This is not your ordinary neighborhood street:

The dry wash itself is not boring. The famous Red Rock is everywhere. Grace says that the water gets deep enough here to be a danger. There are many small gullies around the town which sport warning signs shouting, “Do not attempt to cross when flooded.” In fact, the local police will fine you if they catch you trying it. Several cars are wrecked every year when drivers try to cross and are caught up in raging currents:

I’d be the first to admit that I’m taken aback by the contrast between Madang, a tropical paradise (well, sort of), and the apparent barrenness of the Arizona landscape. Frankly, I feel I’m surrounded by desert. However, my curious nature kicks in daily and I find interesting things to photograph. Have you ever seen a tumbleweed plant? Well, now you have:

Admittedly, they are not much to look at. The main interest to me falls into the category of western lore. Roy Rogers was my childhood hero. I wanted to be a cowboy. I’m still trying. Anyway, I have intense memories of The Sons of the Pioneers. They were featured in many of Roy Rogers movies. You can look here for a YouTube clip of the group singing Tumbling Tumbleweeds. Here are some tumbleweeds which have fallen into a dry wash and are taking a little rest:

Being observant pays off when fauna and flora are scarce. This is one of the more amusing of VOC’s cacti:

I had no idea that prickly pears came in such unlikely shades.

I occasionally have to get down on my knees. While praying at the side of the road (okay, okay, I wasn’t praying) I spied these industrious ants milking their herd of aphids:

Catching the sweaty runner in the background was a bonus.

It is incredibly hot here. Being at 4700 feet certainly helps. It’s much hotter nearer sea level. The temperature forecast for the next week does not dip below 100°F (38°C). It is, as the saying goes, “a dry heat”. There is some truth to that. Although the wind feels as if it came from a blast furnace (and it is surprisingly windy here) the air is so dry that I don’t feel uncomfortable, even though the temperature is considerably higher than it is in Madang.

What I do notice is my huffing and puffing when I excercise. The altitude is high enough for me to notice a difference.

I need to get more exercise!

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Miscellaneous Visual Rambling

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 6th, 2009 by MadDog
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Sometimes I accumulate images that I like, but there’s not enough meat in them to deliver a meal. Today I’ll pile a few of them on your plate like a mixed grill. See if you can find anything tasty.

I always love shooting in lighting situations that are difficult – just to see what happens. This is in the Amtrak station in Chicago. It took some careful fiddling in Photoshop to get anything interesting, but it was worth the effort:
The Amtrak station in Chicago

I love travelling by train. Any time I have the choice, I take a train.

I took this shot in a friend’s back yard in Terre Haute, Indiana. I’m told it’s a Golden Finch and it likes to eat standing on it’s head. I can still stand on my head (okay, okay, I need to use my hands to prop me up). Anybody got a Snickers bar? I’ll give it shot:Golden Finch?

Here’s an interesting snap of Gracie and Eunie tooling down the road in Sedona. They’ve been best friends for sixty-one years. It’s always such a pleasure to be with them:

Eunie and Gracie tooling along

And, these are?  Too easy – cactus flowers:Cactus flowers

Sedona is a place where people are not chicken to speak their minds. I like the sign. It helps me to remember who’s doing the real suffering:

Speaking the mind

It’s off to the Grand Canyon today. It’s still cloudy outside and it’s only supposed to get up to about 18°C. I’m so tired of being cold. Only a return home is going to fix that. This will be my only visit to the Grand Canyon in my life. Just give me some sun and some spare batteries. Is that too much to ask?

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