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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A Final Stroll Through My Garden

Posted in My Garden on December 25th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’ve been keeping a low public profile since I left Sedona on a snowy day in early December. After a couple of nights of layover time in Brisbane I arrived in rainy Madang and began to trudge through the seemingly endless list of tasks which will allow me to exit my home town of thirty years. I was planning to take some pictures of the inside of my house before I left, but I watited too long. It is now in a sorry state. I have to avert my eyes from the bare walls, empty shelves and vacant bookcases. It is not the home I once thought. I discovered late in life that home is not a place or a house. The old expression seems trite – home is where the heart is – but it is profoundly true.

My garden is still a cheery place. I’ve enjoyed several quiet walks there, accompanied by my trusty old Canon G10. I sold my G11 and its underwater housing. I was going to sell the G10 and housing also, but I think I’ll keep it. I seriously doubt if I’ll ever dive again, but it’s possible. The G10 will make a great camera for Grace. She wants something that will let her grow. It’s a perfect camera for an enthusiastic amateur. I can’t see much sense in letting it set on a shelf while spending the money on a new G12. For most shots the difference in the images is undetectable.

You won’t be able to tell much about cameras from these shots. They all have been heavily Photoshopped for “artistic” purposes. This hibiscus has been smoothed, despeckled, outlined, enlarged, shrunk, posterized and massaged in other ways until it bears little resemblance to a photograph:

And the spider in this shot has been stretched, sharpened and colorized within an inch of its life:

The colors in this shot are nothing like the original photo, but the grasshopper looks exactly as it does in my head:

I wanted a grasshopper which might take up residence behind the looking glass.

These jasmine flowers smell so sweet as to make the head spin. They affect me much the same as orange blossoms:

I remember driving once through an orange grove with Eunie and getting so light-headed from the intensity of the aroma that I had to ask her to drive.

This night-blooming jasmine has much the same effect on me. After nine in the evening stepping out my front door is a mind-bending experience:

Visceral experiences are common here in the belly of the tropics. Redundant as that might be linguistically, the metaphor holds true. I find the high desert austere in comparison. That is not a measure of value, but an observation upon which I need to reflect so that I may learn to appreciate it and discover its secrets. When I arrived in Madang I was a gawker. I could not appreciate it properly because I had so little knowledge. As I gain knowledge of my new environment I will come to love and appreciate it as much as I ever have loved and appreciated Madang.

Lush . . . the word which comes to mind so often. Bathed in perfume and perspiration – I’m enjoying being wet again – I stand in simple awe of the outrageous palette displayed by humble vegetation:

A little super-virgin olive oil with a dash of balsamic . . . voila! A tasty and festive salad. I wonder what coleus tastes like?

I am having little trouble bidding goodbye to most things in Madang. Friends are the hardest . . . Some things I won’t miss:  melting roads with potholes so deep that you have to turn your lights on, power outages that are timed by Satan himself, phones that work when you don’t need them . . . the list goes on. I’ll live without my boat. I can survive quite happily in the absence of the verdant landscape. Diving gave me decades of fun and learning, but I will find other pleasant pursuits. I think that when I look back over a few years to catalog the things I miss the few pages will be occupied with simple notations of things I thought of as uniquly mine. My smart, pretty dog, Sheba, my lovely house, my orchids in my garden:

The funny thing about this is that you can’t really own any of these things. The way things are going today I sometimes wonder if we can own anything. Maybe some of us are beginning to realize that is it just so much stuff. It’s not the actual stuff that is of value. The value lies in the feelings we get from thinking that we own it and it is ours. It’s my stuff. It’s your stuff.  It’s good stuff . . .

Ah, well, since it’s only the feelings and memories that get the endorphins flowing freely, juicing me up nicely and making me jingle like a pocket full of silver dollars, I’m going to develop a philosophy of Gratification by Means of Virtual Ownership.

I’m going to start with a virtual spin in my new virtual Corvette on the virtually smooth North Coast Road.

See you later . . .

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The Lilies of the Pond

Posted in On Tthe Road, Photography Tricks on April 9th, 2011 by MadDog
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Yesterday it was impossible for me not to think of Eunie’s death seven months ago. How I miss her. How I’ve changed. I’ve gone through another lifetime in the last few months beginning with despair and suicidal thoughts, stark fear and crippling grief. Much of that is now behind me, hopefully to return only in isolated episodes. Perhaps I am maturing in this strange new life. Loneliness remains my most troubling companion, but I’ve come to realise that it not need plague my future. My allies are my faith, my friends and naive hope.

Being here in Gympie for the last few weeks has been not unlike traveling to a different, less lonely planet. It has provided me with a wealth of distractions and allowed me to heal more rapidly. Certainly travel itself is stressful and I’ve had to make some major adjustments. The stress I felt in Madang was the pressure of the too familiar. Everything in life reminded me constantly of loss and provoked the aching in my heart. Here, at least, that is absent.

So, being in a reflective mood today, I naturally began to think about light. I think that may be a pun of sorts. I don’t usually contrive puns, because I’m no good at it. I suppose that I just proved that point.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about light from the perspective of an artist, in particular, a photographer. It seems to me, and I know that it’s not an original thought, that we do not, in fact, see the real world. Perhaps that requires some explanation. What we do see is only light. Our eyes do not respond to objects, they only sense light. That’s all there is as far as our eyes are concerned. We see only photons reflected or emitted by objects. Though this may seem a very abstract, even meaningless distinction, it’s important in the sense that one who intends to capture the essence of an object must be very aware of the roll of light in revealing the nature of the subject. Indeed, it is all we have to work with. Try turning the lights out.

In this shot of a water lily, one of the better flower images I’ve produced lately, I was working with the light, molding it, in fact, to my will:

The flat, grey light of the overcast sky did not do what I wished. It provided only the colours and the shape. I had to create depth by digital trickery. The bright glow of the yellow centre washed away the detail which I saw with my eyes, but was lost in the electronically recorded image, a common fault of digital cameras. I had to find it in the information and restore it. I was completely unsatisfied with the lack of depth in the water drops. They looked like cartoons. It took some fiddling to make them drops again.

I am the proverbial guy who knows nothing about art, but knows what he likes. I have an idealised template of an image in my mind when I sit down to work with it. My camera provides a good starting point, sometimes better than others This is the beauty of photography today. A dabbler such as myself can produce images which, in another age, might have been presumed to be the work of a master:

I had similar problems with this image. I had to dig deep in the digits and grab back what the flat light took from me. In this case I took a more painterly approach, intensifying detail to the point of parody. At least the leaves in this shot have no serious imperfections.

In this shot of a blossom just opening, I went further down the road of recreating the image to suit my ideal of it. A trick of the light made the deep center seem to glow. Again, details were nearly absent. I struggled mightily to pull them out. I’m quite happy with what happened around the outer edge of the glowing centre:

The little puddle of water on the leaf under the blossom is also a gift.

I got another gift here in the form of a busy bee:

I’m pleased by this snap shot. When working with bees, one has to be quick. They don’t pose. I also like the stems flowing across the frame. “Angled lines” is a good compositional tool to keep in mind.

Voluminous tomes have been written about light from the perspective of the photographer. I’ve read a couple. Though informative, much of the information deals with studio lighting. Since I’ve never been attracted to that kind of photography, the information is mostly academic, but it does provide insights into things an amateur might do well to think about. My advice is to learn to enjoy playing with light. In this shot, which was hopeless with the natural light, I had to find a useful way to use the dinky flash on my Canon G11:

The camera wanted to put way too much light on the subject. I had to ask the long-snouted grasshopper to stick around for a while as I fiddled with the intensity of the flash. I finally found a setting that gave me a good exposure.

Here in this shot of a very fat spider illuminated by a flat, listless sky, the problem was to find a way to give the spider some depth:

Franky, this shot would have been a throw-away if done on film and processed normally. A genius in the darkroom could have pulled up from the negative the detail present in the underexposed body of the spider. With Photoshop, it was the work of a few minutes.

Photography is much more fun for me today than it has ever been before. I can’t believe I stuck with film so long.

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Sunrise – Starfish – Insects

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on March 4th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’m going a little crazy getting ready for my trip. Regine, a long-time friend from Austria, is back visiting again in Madang. She brought three friends with her. I’ve been entertaining them for the last few days. Along with my feeble attempts to think of everything I need to do to get ready to travel, I feel rather more busy than I care for.

It’s been months since I have been in the mood to get out before light and catch sunrises. A few days ago, I could no longer resist. The sky across the harbour seemed to be on fire:

The colour, coming through a narrow slot between the horizon and low-hanging clouds, covered nearly a quarter of the sky. Here you can see nearly the entire eastern quadrant ablaze:

That was worth getting up for.

I got a couple of interesting starfish shots on my last dive. This is a nice image of a Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae) :

These are quite common in the waters around Madang. They are about the size of a football.

Here is another very common sight. This is the leg (arm?? which is it?) of a starfish. It was probably bitten off by a fish. You can clearly see that a whole new starfish is growing from the severed end of the limb. Given time, it will look like any other starfish:

I found this moth wearing a fancy coat out on my veranda one morning:

And this is a rather large grasshopper which I spotted only a metre away:

This got me thinking about large grasshoppers. I feel strangely calmed when I let my mind wander. Google is a fantasy land. I wish I could get a job Googling all day. Ask me anything. I’m the answer man. So, you want the world’s largest grasshopper. I deliver:

Of course, I make no claims of accuracy for the information which I supply.

Still not had enough of grasshoppers? What about this one (the grasshopper is the one on the right):

If you recognise that one you are probably a mature adult who watched a great deal of  TV in your youth.

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A Little Nature Walk at Nob Nob

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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Two steps forward, one back. Repeat. Life has somehow developed this annoying pattern. I think it started when I was born. By the way, exactly why was I born? Anybody? Anybody at all? What, no ideas? Well, me neither, but since I’m still here taking up space, I may as well keep on keeping on and see if anything interesting pops up.

Despite my depressed self esteem to the contrary, I still seem to be useful. That’s something of which I need to remind myself nearly daily. Hey, I go to work (nearly) every day, (occasionally) on time, and I (usually) stay until I feel like there’s nothing more I can start on or have a reasonable chance to finish. I get (most) things done (eventually). (Nearly) all of the computer gear works and (mostly) the operation is (a little) more reliable and controllable than it was two (or several) years ago. I (pretty much) do what I am told to do, (more or less) without grumbling, and I (try to) take on as much as I feel that I can without (completely) botching up the work. The feeling of still being (somewhat) useful is something I need very much. All in all, I’d give myself average marks for utility.

I’m more than a little surprised by how many things I have accomplished without having a clue as to what I was doing. The list is tedious, but full of tasks which had to be taken on. I have had a lot of help and good advice along the way. I seem to be checking items off faster than the list is growing, so that gives me some sense of progress. The stunning thing about this whole process is how I managed to get through so many things without creating yet more chaos by way of my abysmal ignorance. I can count a few minor miracles among the lot and more than a few near disasters. It’s a mixed bag.

I’ll give you an example of dumb thinking – I thought about it and I took the dumb choice. I recently sold Eunie’s 1973 Spitfire 1500 to my cousin. God bless her and her husband for relieving me of it. One crucial operation was to get the title to the car in her hands so that they can get licence plates for it. How the title to a car in Indiana ended up in Madang is another story.

Anyway, I prepared all of the necessary paperwork to facilitate the transaction, including some tricky stuff because we don’t have anything called a Notary Public (a term which I have never understood). Instead, we have what is called a Commissioner for Oaths. This person is charged with confirming your identity when you sign a document – just what I needed. But, guess what? The place where the Notary Public signs and stamps the document looks nothing like the place where a Commissioner for Oaths performs the same function.

So, this required a few hours of scanning things into the computer, fiddling with the format and fervently praying that the officials at the licence branch would cut me some slack. They can be notoriously picky or wonderfully compassionate, depending on the weather.

After doctoring the documents, I placed everything in a brown envelope and scratched my head. I could choose to send it by DHL at an exorbitant cost, about US$50. It doesn’t pay to use the fastest (one day) service, because it’s going to take a couple of weeks anyway. So, I had a choice. Blow fifty bucks on DHL or trust the PNG Postal Service to get it there by Registered Air Mail at one tenth the cost. What do you think I did? Right, my Frugal Plan kicked in and I hustled over to the post office holding my fingers crossed.

BIG MISTAKE! My cousin waited and waited and waited. I got more and more frantic, something which I have been practising and getting very good at. After a futile attempt to trace the package, my cousin told me that the only information available was that it was “awaiting dispatch” from Port Moresby. That wasn’t helpful at all. Inquiries by me at the post office on this end at first drew a blank also. I was told quite bluntly that I couldn’t even begin a trace until at least one month had passed.

Well, as it turns out, the item does not appear to be lost, but now is finally on its way to Indiana. What happened? A bomb! Well, not exactly a bomb, but the mention of a bomb. It appears that somebody somewhere got all excited about a real or imagined (not clear which) bomb which may or may not have been sent or not sent through the postal service either to some place in North America or Germany or possibly Australia. Really that’s more information than we normally expect to extract from the postal authorities. All of the mail to North America, and who knows where else, was held hostage at the Port Moresby post office and not released until the second day of December, just in time to be hopelessly retarded by the Christmas clogging. We counted this as good news, which gives you a general idea of our normal expectations of life in Paradise. I may possibly have learned a lesson. When frugality conflicts with wisdom, give wisdom a break or at least a nod.

Today the sale of the house in Brownsburg is supposed to close. That will be a significant milestone for me. Do you think I’m sitting on pins and needles? Yeah, you’re right.

And, so it goes.

I see that I’ve digressed severely from the nature walk. In fact, I haven’t even started. So, on with the show.

This is some kind of bug on a hibiscus blossom. Yeah, I know it’s not a true bug. I guess it is katydid; I don’t know which and I can’t say that it’s very important to me. I’m a fish guy. How do they manage, being so spindly?

I couldn’t tell if it was eating the naughty bits of the flower or if something else ravaged them.

This is an interesting plant which is native to the hot places in the Americas. Somebody dragged a few of them here and planted them. We call it diwai pen  in Tok Pisin.  The translation is the “paint plant”. Here is a blossom and some of the fruit:

For those who care, the taxonomic name it Bixa orellana.

The name “paint plant” derives from the reddish-orange goop that is found inside the fruit. I was going to get a picture of it, but these did not seem to have any:

The substance is used to decorate bodies for celebrations. These things are very difficult to photograph. Digital cameras seem to have problems capturing detail in “all the same colour” areas. I had to fiddle with this image quite a bit to make it usable. It is red, red, red.

Shooting a praying mantis is an easy task. They don’t generally move very fast. It’s common to find them in the shrubbery, but this one has perched itself on an iron post. That made me happy enough, because it simplified my job. Just in case you’re feeling geeky I’ll mention that I used a very small aperture for this shot so that I could get the maximum depth of field. I wanted the structure of the roof on the other side of the post to be discernible:

It is a magnificent beast.

This shot is better:

That’s creepy enough for me.

This is a non-amusing shot of a staghorn fern. They get quite large. This one was about as big around as a fair sized coffee table. It appears as if someone lopped off a leaf at some point. I don’t know what all that stuff is which looks like lettuce; I’ve not seen that before on a staghorn:

As I said, it is not a very interesting picture.

So, what to do when a picture flops? Turn it into art!

That’s much better. I’ll call it Alien Vegetation.

I’m holding my breath for the closing of the house tomorrow. I may soon be free at last!

I just got an email from my friend Steve telling me that the house will be burned to the ground on the 8th of January by the volunteer fire department. I’m trying to decide how I feel about that. At least it won’t be my  house that’s burning.

This will be my last post for 2010. I will not be sorry to see this year dissolve into history. If hard pressed, I can remember positives, but they are nearly submerged in a sea of grief and loneliness. What 2011 will be like is largely up to me. Many things are beyond my control; I’m not immune to the vagaries of life. However, I can adjust my attitude.

That is one thing which I can  fix. The rest is a box of chocolates.

UPDATE: Reader Jeff Allen passed along the taxonomic name of the fern. It is a bit curious – Platycerium superbum.  Be careful how you pronounce it.

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Kristy and the Hibiscus

Posted in Guest Shots, Mixed Nuts on November 21st, 2010 by MadDog
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Today I have another mixed bag of gibber-jabber and images. My work days on Thursday and Friday last week were severely disrupted by non-glamorous but essential tasks. At the end of Thursday’s post I showed a picture of Gosel, one of our Technical Services workers, mowing the grass at one of our houses. He also mowed my lawn that day. I suppose that describing what I have in front of my house as a “lawn” is a little pretentious. It’s a big patch of grass full of crab holes. It’s not even grass grass. It’s more like crabgrass. I guess that’s appropriate. On Friday there were two more yards to be manicured. It’s is not my usual work to haul Gosel around to the properties which need his weed-whacking attention. It would normally be something that our Administrator of Technical Services would tend to. Unfortunately, we do not have an Administrator of Technical Services. In fact, we are so short-staffed that all of us are doing things which most of us would not normally be called upon to do or have not done before. Our usual work is still there and still piling up.

In most workplaces in which I have been this kind of situation would cause problems of all kinds, mostly in the form of complaints and interpersonal relationship kerfuffles. Since I came back from Australia and resumed my duties I have been amazed and greatly encouraged by the way our entire staff of workers has responded to the drastic changes in the distribution and nature of our work loads. We still face some difficult times, but we are truly pulling together as a team.

Okay, that was pretty boring, eh? I’m sure that you dropped by so I could tell you all about my work days last week. I’m a charmer, I am.

Well, maybe I can amuse you by describing the strange little thing which just happened back in my medulla oblongata. We’re talking way down deep here, folks. I have no control over these things. It’s a lot like hiccups.

When the words “pulling together as a team” dribbled off my fingertips onto my keyboard, I had a sudden surge of energy from my autonomic music centre. It blasted my one good ear with some lines of the Pink Floyd song Have a Cigar  from the 1975 album Wish You Were Here.  I have an intense affinity for that album. It’s very familiar territory. I can’t listen to the title song without crying. Yeah, I know that’s an old man thing. The problem is that I’ve been doing that since the album came out. I wasn’t so old then.

It could be made into a monster
If we all pull together as a team.
And did we tell you the name of the game, boy,
We call it Riding the Gravy Train.

Strange, eh? – that the connection was made. Happens to me all the time. Rats have chewed all of the insulation off my wires.

Music can be so powerful. How does that happen? Take some notes, string them together, mix in some words . . . and you get a punch in the guts. Of course, it has to be the right tones in the right sequence and the words have to get your attention at some level deeper than a daydream.

The staticy radio sound of the acoustic guitar lead-in which drifts into a live sound at the beginning of Wish You Were Here  is pure genius to me. I’m listening to it right now. And, yeah, you guessed it. . . I won’t say it.

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Oh, so many absent friends – so many I will never see again.

(Sniff, sniff . . .)  I’m repeating myself. I note that I wrote about this song in a very morose post only last March.

Okay, enough of that. Let’s look at some flowers and some other stuff. I have a treat for you at the end, so you may want to skip down to it.

While the grass was being trimmed at one of our houses and I didn’t want to drive back to the office and then come back later to pick Gosel up, I took advantage of the time to walk around the yard and snap some pictures. This view struck me as a comment about life these days in Papua New Guinea:

Razor wire and flowers – paradise and danger. How many ways can you say it? Things are not as pleasant as they once were. It is not considered safe now to drive up the North Coast Road. Expatriate volunteer workers are being advised rather strongly not to leave town. I’ve never been seriously concerned about my personal safety before in Madang. Now I’m not so sure. Tomorrow I wanted to drive up to Blueblood to party with friends. Now, I either have to go by boat or stay at home. I’m certainly not going to risk a carjacking of my new truck (can you carjack a truck?).

All right, let’s not dwell on that for too long. Here is a close-up of the business end of a hibiscus flower:

It reminds me of a particularly elaborate cheerleader’s pompom or maybe Mother Nature’s sceptre.

This hibiscus blossom has just opened. The yellow anthers are still globbed together in a ball:

Even after thirty years, I still occasionally see a colour of hibiscus which is new to me:

You never know what you will find in someone’s yard:

This unusually prickly pineapple plant is not only tasty when ripe, but very decorative.

Where there is lush plant life, you will always find the grazers:And vegetation is everywhere. This is the fire eaten stump of a huge raintree. In the hollow, a little garden grows:

Okay, I think that I have beat that subject to death now. Let’s move on.

I’ve been corresponding with a young lady for a while about photography. Kristy Peacock wants to enhance her ability to take exactly the photos which she wants. It does take a little understanding of some basic technical issues and knowledge of how to make your camera do what you want instead of doing what it wants. Once you begin to put these things to work you can step outside of the snapshot box.

We were talking about the night modes on her camera. I am glad to see that she is experimenting:

It’s a very imaginative shot. I’m not even sure how she did it. Maybe she’ll explain in a comment. The phantom images look like a double exposure, but I don’t think that is is it.  It’s more likely people moving out in the yard behind Kristy during the long exposure time when the “dark” image is forming before the flash goes off to capture the foreground.

I’m very glad that she sent this one to me. I like silky water shots. I’m pretty sure that this one had to be a tripod exposure, as I suspect was the one above. The exposure time would have had to be a second or more:

Some cameras have what is called a neutral density filter built in. Otherwise you can add one in front of the lens. The purpose of the filter is to cut down the amount of light getting through the lens. This allows you to use a much slower shutter speed. You have to brace the camera firmly against a solid object or, better yet, use a tripod. The result is that the water is motion blurred while everything else remains crisp and sharp.  Very nice work, Kristy.

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Aqua Sea – Willow Tree

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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Yesterday afternoon, when we left work we went over to the docks to pick up our friend, Jo Noble. She is the Steward on a giant super-yacht which is temporarily stuck in Madang awaiting repairs. We had her over for dinner and a “movie night”. Such is what passes for entertainment in Madang. We like it. Although I miss the big city attractions of restaurants, movie theaters, museums, clubs and the like, the simple pleasures of visiting with friends in our homes keeps us more in tune with each other. Relationships are closer, stronger, less concerning events and venues and more about the real things in life.

Anyway, on the way around coronation drive we all simultaneously noticed that there was a remarkable scene before us. I had to stop the car to record the moment. In nearly thirty years of driving past this spot, I’ve never seen such an odd juxtaposition of hues. Honestly, I did not fiddle with this. Other than balancing the tones so that is shows up on the black background it’s pretty much the way it appeared to us:First, the sun was over my right shoulder low in the sky, taking on the winelight colour of the tropical afternoon. The rest of the sky behind me was intense blue, making the storm clouds over the Finisterre Mountains  reflect that blueness back at us. There was also a large amount of fresh, cloudy water from the Gol Gol River  over Astrolabe Bay.  The sunlight was shining intensely there, but not directly on the storm clouds. This gave the water an aqua tint that contrasted strongly with the clouds and turned upside down the normal bright-sky, dark-water combination which we expect.

All of that fiddle-faddle of explaining it sounds stupid to me now. It dropped our jaws. No need to explain it.

This morning’s sunrise was extravagant:As I was moping around the garden for lens fodder, I was amused by the tiny sheep moving around in a little mob in the sky. I took a picture of them.

A few minutes later I heard the wimpy whine of one of Air Niugini’s Fokker F-100 jet-powered gooney-birds coming in over the  main wharf on final approach:I was a pilot for a long time, but I never got used to that term. It always gave me a vague sensation that I was nudging too close to a prediction.

PILOT: Uhhhh Tower, Gold Three-Four on final approach to One-Two.

TOWER: Confirm that, Gold Three-Four on final approach to One-Two.

PILOT: Uhhhh roger tower, this is my final approach . . . ever.

TOWER: Uhhhh Gold Three-Four, say again last.

PILOT: Tower, you got wax in your ears? I said this is my  final approach. I don’t plan on doing any others after this one.

TOWER: Uhhhh . . . mmmmm . .  Gold Three-Four, is it your intention to land?

PILOT: Uhhhh . . . Tower, Gold Three-Four . . . I haven’t decided yet, I’m just approaching for now. But this is the last time.

Well, you get the drift.

As I panned madly, blurring the trees below to keep the sharp eye of the lens on the aircraft, I was still wondering:As it turned out, it did land. This time. Every time I get on an airplane, I think to myself, “What? Are you meshuga?”

On to simpler, less transcendental things . . . like grasshoppers:This was my morning grasshopper. I sometimes don’t even bother to photograph them; it so often leads to a pointless chase around the garden. This one, however seemed to want, need to be imaged. It may have low self-esteem issues.

This is my poor, poor willow tree which simply won’t grow. I’ve been feeding it, mulching it, trimming back dead whips, talking to it in gentle tones of encouragement and tenderly stroking its leaves for three years now. It’s the only willow tree that I’ve ever seen in Papua New Guinea and I have no idea where Juli, our haus meri  got it:

I love willow trees. I had one in my back yard as a child. It was my place of escape. I escaped a lot. I built a house in it. I would have preferred to live there, if I were allowed. I would also like to have had a bicycle, if it were allowed. Too dangerous!  No wonder I’m now a mad man. Poor me.

Jesus wept. So do willows.

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