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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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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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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Big Fat Mountains

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 12th, 2009 by MadDog
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I took a drive up Nob Nob Mountain  yesterday with some visiting friends to show them our magnificent Astrolabe Bay  and the surrounding coastline. A prime feature of this beauty is the Finisterre Mountains  across the bay. Because of the rain all morning, when the sun finally came out, it was quite clear, so we got a terrific view of the mountains.

If I were a painter, I think that one thing that I would enjoy is being able to interpret the same scene or object in many different ways, according to my whim. Alas, I have not a smidgen of artistic talent. However, I do have a yummy selection of cheap cameras and I have acquired a bit of cleverness with Photoshop. For the first time in the history of man (bring up The Ride of the Valkyries  in the background now), an ordinary bloke or blokess can, with the minimum of fuss, create wonderful scenes that would make a landscape artist of a hundred years ago weep.

Here are three interpretations of the same scene from the top of Nob Nob Mountain.  You are looking out across Astrolabe Bay  at the Finisterre Mountains:

Finisterre Mountain Panorama 1An astute (very  astute) observer would note that I have exaggerated the vertical aspect by about 20% to make the mountains appear taller.

Here is a different interpretation of the same scene:Finisterre Mountain Panorama 2Changing the aspect ratio and including the dramatic sky changes the mood of the image completely, but keeping the mountains just about a third of the way up enhances the focus on them. The eyes have to move around a lot more in this image, because there are several focal points.

In an attempt to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, I took another series with mid telephoto. I didn’t even have to exaggerate the height of the mountains in this one. The telephoto effect did it for me. Using a telephoto lens will always make background objects appear larger with respect to foreground objects:Finisterre Mountain Panorama 3Of course, while I was up at Nob Nob,  I had to have a little nature walk also, just to see what was buzzing.

Guess what I found buzzing in a crevice of an ancient Frangipani tree – hornets!

My camera appears closer that I actually placed it. I used a little telephoto with my macro setting and didn’t get closer than about a third of a metre (or one foot, if you insist). I honestly don’t know if they are hornets or wasps or whatever. I just know that I’m not going to let them sting me if I can help it. I was once trimming a tree in my yard and did not notice a small hornet’s nest. They came at me about a dozen strong and I took about twenty hits before I got to the edge of my yard and dived into the harbour. Man, that smarts!

There are all sorts of weird and wonderful orchids here. Have a look at this one:Strange OrchidWhat’s that supposed to be?

And this, my gentle readers, is a passionfruit flower:Passionfruit Flower and fruitPointing out the obvious here, note the passionfruit at the lower left. I can’t say that I like them much. They taste too perfumy and sour to me. The flowers are certainly beautiful. We have another fruit similar to this that we call a sugar fruit. It has the same hard shell with the gooey stuff inside around the seeds, but it is much sweeter.

When I got home from the mountain, this copra boat was heading out to sea, probably to Kar Kar Island:Copra BoatWhen the winelight falls on our beautiful harbour in the afternoon, I don’t want to be anywhere else.

With my camera, of course.

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The Knights Who Say, “Ni!” Demand Shrubbery

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 23rd, 2009 by MadDog
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It is theoretically possible that many readers are, as I am today, wracking their brains to recall how Scene 13 of Monty Python and the Holy Grail  goes. But first, Something Completely Different:

Bouganvillia flowers on water

As I was sitting in Faded Glory  at the Madang Resort Hotel last saturday, someone had been trimming the Bouganvillia shrubs and, as is the custom, throwing the cuttings into the sea. Everything gets thrown into the sea here. Nevertheless, it makes a pretty picture.

So as not to keep you waiting, refresh your memory of The Knights Who Say, “Ni!”

[spooky music]
[music stops]

KNIGHTS OF NI:   Ni!  Ni!  Ni!  Ni!  Ni!
ARTHUR:   Who are you?
HEAD KNIGHT:    We are the Knights Who Say… ‘Ni’!
RANDOM:    Ni!
ARTHUR:    No!  Not the Knights Who Say ‘Ni’!
HEAD KNIGHT:   The same!
BEDEVERE:    Who are they?
HEAD KNIGHT:   We are the keepers of the sacred words: Ni, Peng, and Neee-wom!
RANDOM:   Neee-wom!
ARTHUR:   Those who hear them seldom live to tell the tale!
HEAD KNIGHT:   The Knights Who Say ‘Ni’ demand a sacrifice!
ARTHUR:    Knights of Ni, we are but simple travelers who seek the enchanter who lives beyond these woods.
KNIGHTS OF NI:    Ni!  Ni!  Ni!  Ni!  Ni!…
ARTHUR:   Ow!  Ow!  Ow!  Agh!
HEAD KNIGHT:   We shall say ‘ni’ again to you if you do not appease us.
ARTHUR:   Well, what is it you want?
HEAD KNIGHT:   We want… a shrubbery!
[dramatic chord]
ARTHUR:   A what?
KNIGHTS OF NI:   Ni!  Ni!  Ni!  Ni!
ARTHUR and PARTY:   Ow!  Oh!
ARTHUR:   Please, please!  No more!  We will find you a shrubbery.
HEAD KNIGHT:   You must return here with a shrubbery or else you will never pass through this wood alive!
ARTHUR:   O Knights of Ni, you are just and fair, and we will return with a shrubbery.
HEAD KNIGHT:   One that looks nice.
ARTHUR:   Of course.
HEAD KNIGHT:   And not too expensive.
ARTHUR:   Yes.
HEAD KNIGHT:   Now… go!

So, Knights Who Say, “Ni”, shrubbery ye shall have. Here is a bit of budding shrubbery:

Pink Flowers

I insist that this also could loosly be classified as shrubbery:

Little Blue Flower

And here is an infant bit of shrubbery:

Green bud

Though ferns are not technically shrubbery (are they?) I’m throwing this in as a bonus:

Clurly fern frond

This fern has a doppelgänger lurking behind it.

Fern and its shadow

Take heart, I’m nearly finished. My continued fixation on water drops hasn’t dimished. Honestly, when I was a kid, I never wet my bed. (I still don’t, but I’m only 65, so we’ll have to wait and see.) Anyway, I couldn’t resist these happy little drips on a fern frond:

Fern with water drops

I am so easy to please.

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A Variety Pack

Posted in Mixed Nuts on August 19th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m covered up at work today and also dealing with family matters having to do with my father’s recent passing, so I’m simply going to throw a random bunch of images from the last week at you and let this post sink or swim on its own.

I’ve shown you before these weird upside down flowers that grow beside my veranda. Here is the earlier stage just after the blossom opens:

Strange upside-down flower - Jan Messersmith

As you can see the naughty female bits are all spread out as if they are desperately seeking someone.  The sneaky male gizmo seems to be pointed in the wrong direction entirely. I wonder how this thing manages to reproduce?

In this image, you can see that the male bit has turned deep red (possibly because it’s very tired from its wanderings), the petals have also gone deep red, and the egg case at the bottom is growing. I guess something must have worked:

Strange upside-down flower at a more mature phase

I think that this is some kind of hibiscus that hangs upside down. I’m too lazy to look these up and quite a few readers pipe in with the names of the flowers anyway to save me the bother:

Some kind of red hibiscus that hangs upside down

Trevor Hattersley just got a couple of new beaut Suzuki 140s on the back of Lying Dog,  his 24 Ft Bertram. Here they are shoving us briskly up through Tab Anchorage:

Trevor's new Suzukies doing their stuff

Here’s another peek at one of the Suzukies with Kar Kar Island in the distance:

Trevor's new Suzukies push us away from Kar Kar Island

Up at Blueblood last Sunday, I got this nice shot of our old mate, Bill Hughes out in the water looking extremely happy:

Our old buddy Bill Hughes
And, here is a five frame panorama of the little lagoon at Blueblood:

A Blueblood Panorama

Em tasol.  (That’s all, in Tok Pisin)

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Strolling Through My Garden

Posted in My Garden on January 4th, 2009 by MadDog
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I had a little stroll through my garden this morning, camera in hand.

I always check for insects. There are plenty of bugs that chew on my leaves, but I don’t worry much about foliage loss. Plants grow so quickly here that the insects can hardly keep up. If it were not for the bugs, we’d be buried in plants.

My insect inspection each morning is mostly so that I can see what might be posing nicely for a photograph. This tiny green spider is busy eating his breakfast – a juicy fly with polka-dot wings:

A little green spider enjoying his breakfast

If you click to enlarge, you’ll see that the spider has eight eyes. I’ve shown other spiders on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi here, and here.

I have many varieties of Coleus in my garden. They always make intriguing patterns to photograph:

Green and red coleusFixing on patterns now, I’m stopping at a coconut tree to see what the lichens are up to:

Lichens on coconut tree

Can’t get my mind off of patterns – probably leftover nitrogen from my last dive. It can make you a little trippy. These flame-tree leaves are too, too green:

Flame Tree leaves

This has to be the weirdest panorama that I’ve done. It spreads over more than 400°. You can see the house and car twice. It looks nothing like our front yard, yet everything that is visible in the yard is in the photo – just wildly distorted:

Dizzying front-yard panoramaOooo, head is spinning now. It’s Sunday. I’m going for a nap.

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