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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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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The Spider and the Fly

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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This morning’s sunrise was unmanageable with the tiny sensor and the somewhat limited dynamic range of my modest Canon G11. I have nothing but praise for this camera, considering that I am a relatively poor person. We just bought our first new car in nearly twelve years. I’d like to purchase a camera which would cost, with lenses, nearly a third of the price of our new Nissan Navara. That would be patently insane. Therefore, I squeeze the lemon. I do not, in any way, resent being relatively impoverished. I certainly live as a rich man here in Paradise, so why should I complain? I can’t afford an expensive car. Where would I drive it? I don’t own a Rolex. I don’t own any  watch. Why would I need one? In Paradise, things happen when they happen. I am rich beyond my wildest dreams of three or four decades past. It’s a richness that money can’t buy.

Anyway, the contrast ratio between the sun and the clouds was greater than any camera can handle. Only the human eye can deal with these conditions. I began to wonder if I might use that to my advantage. What if I could turn day into night?

Well, it’s not totally convincing, but the general effect is pleasing.

When I turned around and saw the morning sun lighting up our house and the garden all I could think was, “Wow. Gotta have that shot!”:

Too bad about that ugly TV satellite dish spoiling the shot. It’s tacky. I should Photoshop it out. What’s amusing about this shot is that you can see my shadow. I’m like the ghost appearing in the hall of the mansion. I held my trusty G11 up as high as I could to get just the right angle. The other shadow is one of our coconut trees.

Down at the water’s edge I could not resist yet another shot of one of my favourite plants commonly called the Sensitive Plant or the Tickle-Me Plant (Mimosa pudica):

Its flowers remind me a cheer-leader’s pom-poms and the leaves fold up magically if you touch them.

Half a lifetime ago, I never dreamed that I would live the rest of my life in a place where I would have orchids growing in my yard:

Life can be full of surprises. Let it flow, baby, let it flow.

Even the now familiar orange lilies were decked out in their sparkly caps of morning dew:

I will never tire of shooting water drops. There’s a purity of imagery there which is difficult to top. Less is more.

Today is about images. I suppose that you’ve guessed that already. I enjoy letting the images speak, because images can speak more eloquently than words, at least my words. I was hunting for my wonderful green spiders who frequent the yellow flowers forever blooming in our garden. They have been curiously absent recently. Today I found one laying in wait for a meal:

Does the fly sense danger? I think not. The spider is designed to be covert. Its posture mimics the shape of the flower.

Even as the spider slowly moved its legs to conform more closely to the contours of the flower, the fly approached:

And then the fly flew. Was the spider disappointed? I doubt that a spider thinks much about disappointment. It’s a waiting game. Patience is the key. The occasional meal will suffice. Would that we had such patience.

Yes, the spider waits and my attention is focused upon it. My concern is the perfect image. The spider is takes no note of me. Even as I hold the stem of the flower to adjust the angle, the spider is unconcerned:

My concentration prevented me from noticing, until I had this shot on the screen, the other  spider, which had completely escaped my attention.

How much we miss when we concentrate on one thing!

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Dubious Art

Posted in Photography Tricks on July 11th, 2010 by MadDog
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Having been simultaneously inspired, challenged and somewhat chagrined by my post a couple of day ago on the sublimely eccentric and sophisticatedly earthy art of Lindsay Smith, I decided to blow away an entire morning when I should have been doing something else, namely making some money, creating. If that sentence is not complex and grammatically dimwitted enough for you, then hang around for a while and I will probably come up with something even more opaque.

Every shot in this post is a radical modification of an image which has been sitting among tens of thousands for years, some for decades. Every one except this one: For some inexplicable reason, as I wandered aimlessly around in our front yard this morning, I became mesmerised by the left headlamp of our new Nissan Navara. It is our first new car in nearly twelve years, so we are still somewhat excited about it. It’s the cheap kind with wind-up windows and no electronic gee-gaws such as central locking. You don’t want that kind of stuff here. If it breaks, it stays broke.

When I got the image up in Photoshop, I began to see its possibilities. How bizarre could I possibly make an ordinary automobile headlamp appear? I began to think of the way it might be portrayed in some stylised automotive catalogue. What I wanted was how it might look on acid or some similarly perception distorting substance. Because it has now become art, I have titled it Headlamp of our new Nissan Navara.  I am such a wordsmith.

This one is derived from an old shot and is titled Woman in Canoe on Astrolabe Bay:

Again, with the clever titles. It get worse. Hang around. Some of these you may need to click to enlarge to get the full impact of my efforts to bamboozle you.

Yeah, now this one is a oldie. I entered this one in an art show a long time ago and actually sold a one-off original print for K200. I think that it was the first image that I ever mane any money from:

It’s title is Sunset Watercolour II.  Catchy, eh?

Back in the days of burning rubber, a fine mist of vapourised castor oil in the air, hot tarmac and icy Chablis we called the driver’s compartment of a sports car The Cockpit. It was so very, very English. Here is the arted-up cockpit of our 1973 Triumph Spitfire 1500 which sits immaculately restored and carefully wrapped in a garage in Indianapolis, Indiana waiting for someone to make me a reasonable offer for a car which is rapidly approaching the priceless category. Would you like to buy it?

I mean the car, not the picture, which is titled Spitfire Cockpit.  I wonder how many disappointing Google hits I’ll get on this one.

The dashboard or fascia, as we called it back then, is Brazilian Rosewood, handcrafted over a period of several days by none other than me. Hah, you thought all I can do is take pictures and spew drivel, eh? I got the shot on our first digital camera, a one-point-something megapixel Minolta of some kind. I’m sure that it’s moudlering away in a drawer somewhere.

These are our orange lilies, which will be familiar, if not boring, to regular readers. They are decked out here for a night at the disco:

That’s the Photoshop Poster Edges filter, if you’re interested. It’s one of my favourites. The title is Edgy Orange Lilies.  Better?

Here is an old shot of the fabulous Australian harmonicist and singer Harper at a performance years ago at The Slippery Noodle in Indianapolis, Indiana:

The title is, a little obviously, Harper.  I got the shot from a stairway above the back room venue in the area of the building which used to be a brothel. It is the oldest continuously operating tavern in the State of Indiana and now operates one of the best blues clubs it has ever been my pleasure to patronise. I always hit it a couple of times whenever I’m in Indy.  The cover charge is cheap. The food and drink is also blue-collar priced and surprisingly delicious. The amazing thing about the place is that it has three venues for bands in the same building. If you don’t like one, you can pick up and move to another. The only problem is that it is sometimes packed. It used to be a mob hangout. There are several spots where there are bullet holes in the walls.

Just to show you how civilised and cultured I am, here is a plate of fruit at a vineyard near Vienna. It’s been given the artsy treatment also:It is delightfully and playfully titled Vienna Vineyard Fruit.  I sincerely hope to get back to Vienna someday. It’s one of my favourite cities. Summertime is splendid. I don’t even want to think about winter there. It would be as bad as Indianapolis, from whence I escaped. The shot above has been “posterised” a bit to give it a more painterly look. Posterisation is simply a fancy term for reducing the available colours in an image.

If none of that is quirky enough for you, then I shall deliver the coup de grâce.

This is my left bicep, at the healthy diameter which it once was at the time I was getting my Dancing Dolphins  tattoo, which you see here partially completed:

I decided . . . no, I fell upon the idea of doing it in monochrome . . . okay, duochrome.

Okay, that’s enough nonsense for one day. I’m getting dizzy.

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The Old Catamaran

Posted in Under the Sea on July 5th, 2010 by MadDog
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You have read of many dives here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  near Pig Island  at a spot we call The Eel Garden.  It is probably our most popular dive for several reasons. It is close, only a few minutes from Madang. It is also usually sheltered from waves, so that it is comfortable for those staying on the boat. It is an easy dive and has a variety of habitats from sandy bottom to outer reef. Last, but not least, it has a wreck . . . of sorts.

We’ll get to the underwater shots after I show you our orange lilies, from a slightly different angle, glowing in the morning sun:

After you cross over a huge wall of coral from the sandy bottom of The Eel Garden, you come upon a curious wreck which appears to be an old barge made of two slender hulls, making it, boatwise, a catamaran:

This is how they appear as you approach them from the bow end.

In between the hulls is a tangle of strange structures which may once have held the hulls together:

In this area is a wild menagerie of life. It would be easy to spend an hour between the hulls cataloguing the crazy tangle of coexisting critters.

During this dive there was a Bluefin Trevally (Carnanx melampygus)  bustling around us. They are extremely difficult to photograph, because they never stop darting around:

As you can see, the shot above was “spoiled”. As the fish darted past me, I spun around and grabbed a snap shot. I expected it to be motion-blurred. What I did not expect is that, after minimal massaging with Photoshop, it turned out to be an interesting bit of art. It certainly conveys the sense of motion.

Here is another shot of the tangled mess between the hulls:

You can see a diver’s bubbles behind the lattice.

This shot is from farther toward the stern. You can see that I was moving toward the back end of the hulls. As the sunlight angle changes and the distance decreases, the coral at the left of the shot above changes to a deeper, warmer tone, since there is less sea water between it and the camera:

If you click to enlarge and look at the extreme left of the image, you can barely make out the image of a diver’s fins as he moves off to the left. You can also make out his bubbles trailing above and behind him.

Most of these shots were taken with the iris stopped down to ƒ/8 to increase the depth of field. Yes, some more “Deep Focus” shots. I’ve found a whole new way to bore you.

My next project is a gigantic model train layout with tiny towns and miniscule pine trees. I will explain every detail of this to you when it’s finished.

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Waterspout!

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on April 21st, 2010 by MadDog
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I had intended today to write a post called “Green’s the Thing”, but then Trevor Hattersley came into the office with an image on a flash drive which upset me very much. Last Sunday, work seemed more critical than fun. I turned down an invitation to come up to the beach at Blueblood for the second week in a row. As if that’s not bad enough, I missed seeing something that I’ve wanted to see all of my life – a waterspout!

Here’s Trevor’s nice shot of the waterspout:You can clearly see that it appears to be a hollow tube. He said that the base was visibly sucking water up from the sea. He tried to get a telephoto shot, but a temporary brain malfunction prevented him from remembering what I’ve told him a thousand times about focusing his camera. Thanks, Trevor for the shot. I sneer at you for not telling me that a waterspout was on the entertainment schedule.

So, to the green. Green just happens to be my favourite colour. Green stuff is easy to find on the reef, especially if you pay attention to corals. Here is a close-up shot of a Brain Coral (Platygyra lamellina):The tracks of skeletal material are not always squiggly; sometimes they are straight:The area which you see in the image above is about 10cm wide.

Acropora  corals can also be green. This one is about the size of a large coffee table:In this shot, you can see hints of the spiral shapes that dominates the large scale growth pattern of many corals.

We’ll take a brief break from coral to adore this cute little Linckia multifora  starfish:Three of its arms have been bitten off, but are growing back nicely.

Prepare to use your imagination. Look at the right side of this Acropora  coral:Does it look a little like Australia to you?

Well, it’s almost 07:00 and I have to quit now. When I got back from diving on Saturday the motor on Faded Glory  would not go up, only down. Down doesn’t help. Up is what I needed. So, this morning, I have to take the boat over to the marina to get it fixed. I’m often reminded that a boat is simply a hole in the water into which you pour money.

I’ll leave you with a nice shot of our lovely orange lilies:Now I have to haul the fuel tank and the battery out to Faded Glory.

If I leave them on the boat they will be stolen within a week. Security guards seem to believe that their primary duty is to get a good night’s sleep. Useless! Why do we bother?

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Local Newspaper Moves Washington DC to Colombia

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts on October 30th, 2009 by MadDog
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This gigantic purple sunrise greeted me this morning. I’ve uploaded a 2400 pixel wide image of it. Click to enlarge and do a “save image as”. Then print it out big enough to stretch completely around your head with a little overlap. Then laminate it. (the lamination can be skipped if you are not worried about durability) Now have someone help you to wrap it around your head and tape the ends together in the back. You will have an amusing hat:Giant Purple SunriseIf there is anybody out there crazy enough to actually do this, please, oh please send us a picture. I promise to post it on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi. Here’s your big chance to become famous. All of your friends will envy you.

The meat and potatoes of today’s post is, of course, the brash move by one of our much-beloved local newspapers* to relocate Washington DC to Colombia**. If you don’t believe me, read this:

Local Newspaper Moves Washington DC to Columbia

In case you are too lazy to read all of it, I’ll quote the salient passage:

Mr. Taylor, who is a native of the district of Colombia in South America, said during a press conference yesterday at the US Embassy in Port Moresby that he was delighted to be in PNG.

Well, no doubt Mr. Taylor is delighted to be in PNG (who wouldn’t be?) However the rest of it raises a couple of amusing queries in my mind. Has the capital of the U. S. of A. actually been removed to Colombia in South America? Or, though more likely, but still highly doubtful, is Mr. Taylor a native of some place in South America called the District of Colombia?

Or, my mischievous mind suggests, is our newspaper simply getting it wrong. I’d hate to think that, since our local newspapers, bless their hearts, have always followed the journalistic profession’s local motto, “All the news that fit to smoke.” (if you’re not a local, you probably won’t get that – never mind)

Here’s  another morning’s sunrise:

Orange Sherbert Sunrise

And yet another shot of the now famous orange lilies:

Orange lilies

Last Sunday, when we came back from Blueblood, I got this shot of a ship tied up at the wharf across from our house:Night Ship

It’s not terribly exciting. So, I exercised my favourite Photoshop artistic filter – Watercolour – and produced this mess:Night Ship Watercolour

Hmmmm . . . still not very exciting.

Tomorrow’s another day.

* I could name the newspaper, but that would be a cheap shot.

** Thanks to reader “werdna” for pointing out that I misspelled the name of the country Colombia as Columbia in my original post. Ironic, eh?

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