I Shoot Myself

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 7th, 2011 by MadDog
No Gravatar

I’ve had an interesting few days. I went a couple of weeks ago to get a physical check-up. A few months ago I was wishing to find something which would kill me as quickly and painlessly as possible. Now I am more hopeful. It would be nice to find that nothing serious was amiss. Well, it seems there are a couple of numbers out of whack, but I’ll not go into that until I have more information. It’s probably nothing serious, but I can’t get it checked out now. I’m just too busy. If the second round of tests come back with a frown, I may have to take some more time at the end of my holiday to stop in Australia to get myself checked out thoroughly and go in for repairs if necessary. The cards keep coming, whether one is ready for them or not. Best to keep playing with as cool a head as one can manage.

I did get my wrinkled old skin examined expertly. I was amazed that it cost me only $35. Decades of careless sun exposure have forced me to have tiny bits and pieces frozen off here and there.  Some pesky spots on my head turned out to be nothing. Good news. One little place on my hand had to suffer the liquid nitrogen treatment. It’s a fascinating thing to watch, but don’t be in a hurry for it. Be careful with the sun, kiddies. It wants to kill you.

I’m a fanatic about getting my flu shots every year. We have some terrible flus floating around here. I know that these yearly vaccine concoctions probably will not protect me from those, but it makes me feel better when I get jabbed. I’m very fond of placebos. I wish I could get them by the dozen. So I asked my doctor to script me for the flu vaccine for 2011 and also the Pneumovax pneumonia vaccine, which I have not received for a few years. You’re supposed to get it twice in your life, five years apart. I’ve gotten sort of used to being alive now, after a spell of intense ambivalence, so I would rather not get struck down by something as mundane as the flu or pneumonia. If I’m going to go, I want to do it with a bit of panache.

In line with my extreme frugality, I decided to save another $50 trip to the doctor’s office by injecting myself. It’s really no big deal. When I was in “the military” we were always having to practice injecting. I don’t know why they wanted us to be so proficient. Maybe it was training for a future life on the streets. Anyway, it’s kind of interesting to give yourself a shot. In fact, it stings a lot less when you do it yourself. The flu shot turned out to be no problem at all, as it came neatly packed in a throw away syringe:

As you can see, this image is part of my continuing plan to amuse and enlighten. I may or may not succeed.

Alas, I discovered my plan to cheat the medical industry out of fifty bucks was foiled, as my Pneumovax came in a vial. I was tempted to use the syringe for the flu shot over again, but I was afraid Val would catch me. I can’t imagine that she would have approved:

Nice try. Now I have had to make yet another appointment and fork over another five ten-spots just to get some person in a white suit stick a needle in me. You just can’t win at this game.

By the way, the cane toads came back to the frog pond the next day with reinforcements. Val squirted disinfectant on them to try to kill the pesky beasts. They’re nice and clean now and no worse for the experience. I was funny to watch them blowing soap bubbles:

I was tempted to go and get one of Val’s golf clubs and practice my wedgie or whatever it is golfers do. I despise golf. No, wait. That’s too strong. I find golf puzzling. Okay, now I’ve offended all of the two or three golfers out there who may read this. I’m sorry. Sometimes I just blurt things out. It’s not my fault. I’m impulsive that way. Blame my mother or my father or some other ancestor. I got some truly bad genes. I’m amazed that I’ve stayed out of jail so long. Hey, it’s never too late!

Rummaging around for something else to throw at you today, I ran across this shot of the beautiful red mushrooms which we found near the beach at Teewah a while back:

I reckoned that these would be easy to identify, but no luck. Anybody want to have a go?

Okay, I’m randomising again. Perhaps I should focus a little.

On the way to Teewah, the sky was flamboyant. It was all herringbone and ripples. As I understand it, this is a sign of an extremely unstable upper atmosphere. Something got up its nose. Anyway, as the trees whizzed past with the relatively stationary clouds in the distance, I was mesmerised. It doesn’t take a lot to mesmerise me. I’m hyper-sensitive to mesmerisation. Now I can’t stop saying the word. See what I mean.

So, to make a long story a little shorter, I started thinking about how to capture the effect most cleverly. It turned out to be simple, okay, relatively simple. Here’s an example:

My first efforts were not all that flash.

So, here’s how a photographer thinks:  First, I know I want a relatively slow shutter speed so that the trees in the foreground will be motion blurred. Here’s some nice motion blur, better than the first one:

Next, I have to remember to hold the camera pretty still, as moving the camera with the slow shutter speed will cause the clouds themselves to blur from “camera shake”. The image stabilisation gizmo in the camera can only do so much.

Also, I gotta make sure the camera can focus, since it’s going to get pretty confused by all the whizzing. That’s pretty simple. I just have to set it on manual focus and push it to infinity. Bob’s your uncle.

Except, and there’s always an except, with the slow shutter speed, there was way too much light. My G11 won’t stop down more than ƒ8, and that wasn’t enough. Fortunately, it has a nifty built-in neutral density filter which can be turned on with a couple of stabs of the finger. Once I got that set, the rest was easy. I could get it down to a nice, slow shutter speed:

The perfect sky and the perfect tree.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Karen’s Most Excellent Adventure

Posted in Photography Tricks on August 21st, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

Our dear friends Trevor Hattersly and Karen Simmons came yesterday to stay with us for the weekend. What a pleasure it is to have them here. I’ll talk more about why at the end of the post.

While I’m at it, I’ll explain my tactic for keeping Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  a pleasant place to visit while still giving information concerning Eunie’s medical condition. I’ll present my usual weirdness in the beginning of each post. Casual readers can, as usual, like it or not, according to their tastes. At the end each post I will give any news concerning Eunie. This seems to be the best way to keep the character of the journal as it has been in the past, while still giving out information which is of concern to some readers.

So, if you’re here for the distraction or frivolity, read as far as you like and then go your happy way. If you’re here for the news, try to wade through my craziness and continue to read to the end.

My assignment yesterday evening was to deliver some terribly technical photographic instruction to Karen, who wanted to be able to use her Olympus SP590UZ camera more creatively. Since I’m not a “press that button and don’t ask questions” kind of guy, it required a nighttime field trip to demonstrate the techniques.

Our first stop was in the hotel lobby to talk about low light, slow shutter speeds and white balance:

I can’t believe how funky my shoes look. Those shoes are not me!  Karen’s pose seems to imply intense concentration. Today, I’ll present the images which I took. Tomorrow, Karen will be our Guest Shooter with the images from her camera.

Our first street expedience was to talk about camera bracing and the use of slow shutter speeds to get interesting motion blur effects. Here I braced my Canon G11 on top of the rear view mirror of a car and waited for Karen to tell me when vehicles were coming so that I could get some blurred tail lights:

The blurring of the cars changes what would be a pretty ordinary image into something a little more dynamic. This was a one second exposure.

Still on the subject of motion blur and slow shutter speeds, we moved over to the ocean side of the Esplinade along the sea wall to catch some Phantom Walkers, also shot at a slow shutter speed with the camera sitting on a sign post:

People who were sitting relatively still are sharply defined. Those who were moving are blurred. It’s not rocket science.

All modern digital cameras have a variety of “Scene” settings. Some of these are very useful, because you can’t easily set the camera up manually to create the same effect. On this one we used the “Night Snapshot” setting on the G11 to get Karen sitting primly by the swimming pool with the fountain in the background:

For this setting the camera needs to be braced or on a tripod to keep the background from blurring. The total exposure time was probably a half second or more, so the camera must be held absolutely still for that period of time. At the end of the exposure, the flash goes off, hopefully properly exposing the foreground. One can get some very interesting shots with this setting.

On our way back to the apartment, we were startled out of our wits by the sudden appearance of two tiny UFOs, which whizzed past us up Aplin Street heading in the direction of the outback:

They were accompanied by weird “wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa” noises that faded away into the warm tropical night leaving behind an ominous silence. We waited in intense anxiety for a second or two and then went upstairs. “I don’t think they noticed us.” was my cautious comment.

The final lesson of the evening was a nice little panorama of Cairns at night, at least the part that we can see from the balcony:

All in all, a very pleasant experience. Karen seemed quite pleased to see what she could do with her camera. There will be more lessons later.

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

Tonight, at the unusual hour of 21:00 we will be seeing a top-notch oncologist at the office of our surgeon. The oncologist operates out of Brisbane at a hospital which specialises in these disorders. Our hope is that he will tell us that Brisbane is our best logistical option. We have excellent support near Brisbane. Trevor and Karen’s presence here this weekend is a genuine blessing. Karen spent the afternoon yesterday investigating on the web information that Eunie needs, but I simply cannot deal with at the moment.

Tags: , , , ,

Purple Snow and Boys Gone Bad

Posted in Mixed Nuts on April 8th, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

Well, I certainly have some strange stuff for you today. We’re moving from a stunning sunrise, to Purple Snow (magenta, actually) to Boys Gone Bad and ending up with ship lights in the rain. Eclectic, eh? We’re dealing with the product of a meandering mind here, folks. Fasten your seat belts. We’re going where no Hoosier has gone before.

First I have to mention my soaring spirits as I note the change of season. It has been a dismal rainy time. I mentioned to Eunie this morning that I can tell the season is changing because I’m getting more good sunrise shots. They have been rare and peculiar for months. This morning’s was a beaut:I guess this means that I’m going to have to start getting at 05:30 again. I nearly missed the one above at 06:00. I had to run to the bedroom to grab some shorts and my camera. Both are needed for a sunrise shot. The neighbours would not appreciate a wild-haired naked white man waving a camera around in their yard in the morning.

Yesterday on the way home from the office we had to stop to get pictures of the incredible display of flowers fallen from this tree along Airport Road:I don’t know what kind of tree it is. It appears to be similar to the trees that are referred to in Australia as “bottle brush” trees. I’m a fish guy, not a tree guy. If you know the name of this tree, please leave a comment.

Here’s the closest shot of the flowers that I could manage without a ladder or my long telephoto Olympus SP-590UZ camera:As you can see, the flowers not unlike small pom-poms.

If this shot doesn’t blow you mind, I don’t know what will:From years of watching these kinds of trees that cover the ground with flowers, of which there are many kinds and colours, it seems to me that the phenomena lasts only a very few days. It reminds me of the intense but brief flowering of some desserts.

UPDATE: Our own Lucy Proctor of Madang says that this is a Lau Lau Tree, sometimes called a Bellfruit Tree. She commented on Facebook. I’ve gotten several other comments, all different, which you can see below. No way I’m going to get caught up in this one. Let them battle it out. I’ve offered to supply more detailed images so that maybe we’ll get a species name. Stay tuned.

UPDATE FROM JUSTIN FRIEND: Jan – its of the Genus Syzigium  – which species exactly is hard to say as there are abundant varieties very similar to each other. Its part of the Myrtaceae  Family hence the number of comments mentioning similarity to Eucalyptus genus, they are indeed first cousins. The fuit of the Syzigiums in PNG are generically referred to as Lau Lau, the fruit … See More of Syzigiums in Australia are generically referred to as Lily Pillys. Various Syzigiums produce various fruits known by various names around the world such as Malay Apple, Water Apple, Water Cherry, Rose Apple, and many other fruits often with the word Water and Apple involved. Samarai has huge Syzigiums on the main street. Some Syzigiums are native to PNG, other varieties have been introduced, in my humble opinion PNG has the largest variety of edible fruit bearing Syzigium varieties I have personally come across in the Asia-Pacific.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: A storm (okay, a little breeze) of controversy has been generated concerning the exact species of this tree. Here are three images that should allow the botanists out there to continue their battle with fresh ammunition:
That’s the trunk, as any fool can see. Here is a closer shot of the flowers in the tree:And, here is a close-up of the flowers:

FINAL UPDATE (hopefully): [From Steve Bennett] I’m hoping my last post on this matter… after consulting with my paper based library (the internet can be very vague in searching for botanical taxonomy), I have ended up with the timeless tome by Stirling Macoboy “What Flower is that?” and Stirling comes up with the goods and a great quote when discussing Syzygium malaccense  or the Malay Apple. Stirling says “A taxonomist’s nightmare and a great nuisance to gardeners, these lovely trees have changed names as often as Elizabeth Taylor (note from Steve: I’m sure MadDog remembers who she is…): Acmena, Jambosa, Phyllocladyx, Eugenia, Stenocalyx, Myrtus  and now – Syzygium!”

Stirling then follows this up with a picture of Syzygium malaccense  and it matches the new pics posted by MadDog. One of my other books mentions the brownish reddish flaky bark of the trunk.

And as a consolation to my namesake, Syzygium  and Eugenia  are both in the genus Myrtaceae  which is where you will find Eucalyptus  as well.

Let’s take a break from the gaudy pictures to find out what matters of great import are occurring in our world. It seems that big  boys have gone bad. You may be familiar with an English expression, which I shall not use here because of my New Year’s Resolution regarding naughty language. The expression graphically depicts the settlement of serious disagreements between men (and, presumably between women, though I don’t know how that would work) by comparing the relative distance that a stream of urine can be projected by the respective individuals. The following reminds me of this kind of silly contest:

LOS ANGELES: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is in hot water with the governor of Alabama for his response to comedian Robin Williams’ “Australians are basically English rednecks” jibe. Williams made the joke on the Dave Letterman TV talk show in the US earlier last week and Rudd, during a radio interview last Wednesday, hit back by recommending the comedian “spend a bit of time in Alabama before he frames comments about anyone being particularly redneck”. Rudd’s reference to Alabama and rednecks generated a terse response from Alabama governor Bob Riley. “I’m not sure if Prime Minister Rudd has ever been to Alabama,” Alabama governor Bob Riley responded in a statement.

“If he has, he would know that Alabamians are decent, hard working, creative people.”  [and also rednecks, Eunie added as she was reading this to me – ed.]  Williams was recently in Australia voicing a character in the animated film sequel  Happy Feet 2  and spoke about his visit during the Letterman TV talk show appearance. “The Australians are basically English rednecks,” Williams said. “I realised if Darwin had landed in Australia, he would’ve said ‘I’m wrong, I don’t know what I was thinking’… “You look at some of these animals and realise there was an open bar in heaven on the last day.”  — AAP

I have but a few succulent comments concerning the above.

First, Robin Williams is the consummate clown who modelled himself after one of the greatest buffoons of the 20th Century, Jonathan Winters. Anyone who takes serious umbrage concerning any of his “jibes” needs to immediately and determinedly lighten up. Shame on you, Prime Minister Rudd, for falling for that one. It was an obvious trap.

Next, the Honourable Governor of Alabama, Bob Riley, needs to get real. I’m sure that most Alabamians are “decent, hard working, creative people”, but an astonishing percentage of the population are rednecks, pure and simple. Proud of it too, they are. Eunie and I spent several months at a U. S. Army installation at Fort Rucker in Alabama. We can attest to the redneckism rampant among the population. I don’t know what the fuss is about. Being redneck is like being gay. There’s not a lot you can do about it.

As for the whole matter of Australians being merely Englsih Rednecks, it’s patently obvious that that’s rubbish. Firstly, Australians are nothing at all like Pommies. Pommies hardly ever remove all of their clothing in public. Secondly, the Redneck population is confined primarily to Queensland. Get your facts straight, Robin. Factual material is nearly always funnier than made-up crap.

Concerning the open bar in heaven . . . well, it’s heaven, eh? Everybody gets a little social lube and there are no noisy, rude drunks picking fights. Sounds like heaven to me.

I’ll knock this one off with this peculiar image that I got the other night in the middle of a moderate rain storm:Sometimes the images of which I expect the least are the ones which please me the most. I love moody stuff. This one really appeals to me. It was a devil to work with. I had to convert it to a 32 bit per channel image and then do a heavy Gaussian blur on the area above the lights to get rid of banding in the extremely subtle tonal variations. The image was shot hand-held at medium telephoto with the Canon G11 at ISO 800 for 1/5 second at ƒ4.5. The blurring is caused mostly by the heavy rain.

As if anybody cares.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Only Harley Davidson in Madang – The Coastwatchers Monument

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on February 5th, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

Some of you may have already seen the image below of me sitting on my Harley Davidson 883 Sportster with the famous Madang Coastwatchers Monument in the background. I put it up on my Facebook page a couple of days ago. Even if you have seen it, you may want to have a read or two of excellent articles about the Coastwatchers here and here. Take a few minutes to contemplate the raw courage of those who sacrificed themselves daily to protect others.

MadDog at home in Madang on the Harley:

Now, if only I had the time to ride it.

Okay, okay, I’ll tell the truth. Yes, it is me on my Harley, but the real subject of the post today is yet another blah, blah, blah about camera esoterica. That’s right – yet another geek attack.

As I am hopelessly addicted to natural light photography, passionately hating flashy lights, I have a natural interest in cameras, cheap ones, which can take good pictures in very low light levels. These are rare beasts. Since I refuse to pay more than about US$500 for a camera (I give a camera a hard life!), my options are quite limited. That’s why I was anxious to get my hands on a Canon G11.

There’s no way that you’re going to cram even a modest 11 megapixels onto a sensor the size of your pinky nail and not  get a bunch of noise when you push it to high sensitivity in low light. The question is how much  and what kind  of noise. There’s noise and then there’s noise. Have a look at this (you’ll have to click to enlarge – you’re looking for speckles):

Keep in mind that the image was taken by the light coming from my computer screen – nothing else. That’s pretty dim. The image looks fine as long as you don’t make it so big that you can see the speckles.

Now have a look at this shot, again clicking to enlarge:

Much better, eh? You can see the little drops of condensation on the can. You can even make out the weave of the beer cozy.

What happened? Well, I ran it through a filter in Photohop called Noise Ninja Pro. I have used the filter for years; it’s the best noise management system that I know. However it seems to be able to handle the noise from the G11 sensor much better than the noise from my previous G series Canons, the G9 (noisy) and the G10 (very noisy). This all has to do, I’m sure, with some fancy math such as cubic splines and other tomfoolery which I forgot within nanoseconds of passing my exams. Hey, it’s somebody else’s job!

Anyway, the G11 is capable of producing images shot in very low light at ISO 3200 which, while noisy, can be used as-is for small formats and cleaned up with a good noise filter for larger presentations. Have a look at this beautiful fish woman artefact taken by the twilight coming in through the window of our house:

Above is the noisy, but still useable RAW image reduced and converted to JPG.

This is the same exposure treated with Noise Ninja Pro (no, I’m not getting paid for this):

A very nice image.

At the risk of putting you out cold, here is a final sample pair. I took this shot at mid telephoto off of our veranda at first light when I could barely read the numbers on the camera knobs and the plant itself was in even deeper shade. I could barely see it:

Again, it’s noisy, but look at how nicely it cleaned up:
Okay, you can wake up now. It’s over.

I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

Tags: , , , , , , ,