Hamilton – Too Much Water

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 21st, 2011 by MadDog
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A curious combination of laziness and furious activity has once again kept me off the air for a few days. The brief stay in Janesville, Wisconsin did not produce any interesting images. Now that I’m in Hamilton, Ontario I have either been freezing in my room or venturing outside occasionally when the weather permitted. Nothing happening, nothing to take pictures of, nothing to report. I’ve decided to escape from Canada a week early for my journey to Sedona, Arizona. When there I will probably complain of being too hot. Never mind . . .

A couple of days ago I did go out in the bleak countryside with my friend, Ron Barrons, to try to grab some waterfall shots. The images are miserable. The sky was a uniform bright grey. Maybe some photographers can make pretty pictures with that light, but I am not in that club. On top of that there was way too much water coming over the falls. While it may seem that is a good thing, it is not. Too much water does not make a nice picture of a waterfall.

Ron got this shot of me in the woods on the Bruce Trail with his Nikon:

I’m not as unhappy as I appear to be.

Here is my shot of Webster’s Falls. After working with it for much more time than I usually spend on an image I finally gave up in disgust. I can’t think of anything to do with the flat lighting which makes it any better. The only good thing I can say about it is that it does look pretty much the way my eyes saw it – listless, desultory:

This is Tiffany Falls. It is no better:

The Niagara Escarpment gives rise to the huge number of waterfalls in the area, including Niagara Falls. In this shot you can see a tiny sample of the kind of cliffs which are characteristic of the area.:

The area is relatively undisturbed. Canada always seems so clean to me. Canadians are very reluctant to make a mess. I saw absolutely no litter:

Always on the lookout for the visually stimulating, I found several of these hairy infant plants sprouting up from the rocky soil:

For some strange reason they are bright red and covered by fuzz when they are youngsters. Later on they turn green and lose their fur. You can see a more mature specimen in the upper left corner.

In this shot I used the aperture priority mode and set the opening at ƒ8 to get the maximum depth of field. The scene is in focus from a few inches to nearly infinity. This allows the red footbridge in the distance to be seen clearly:

Here is a macro shot of a millipede:

This is a Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum):

It is a very common plant in the area. In this shot you can see the blurry image of the waterfall in the background.

These images were taken a couple of days ago. Yesterday I trekked into Toronto for a day-trip. I had a bit of an adventure. I’ll be telling about it later. Today the sun is out for the first time since I came to North America.

Today I’m going to Niagara Falls. I hope the sun continues to shine.

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I Shoot Myself

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 7th, 2011 by MadDog
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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.

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Nob Nob and Kar Kar

Posted in Mixed Nuts on January 28th, 2011 by MadDog
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Today’s post title mimics the sound of baby talk. Nob nob kar kar goo goo. Maybe that’s a stretch. I’m going for a little humor today and finding it more difficult than usual. Some days are easier than others. It’s a roller-coaster.

A few persistent and pedantically observant readers may note that my spelling seems inconsistent. For instance, in an earlier sentence I used the word humor. In other posts I have spelled the word as humour. The machine which I am using today has a US English dictionary installed in Firefox, my web browser of choice. I usually use my computer at home or in my office, both of which have Australian English dictionaries. One might ask why.

Okay, since you are so inquisitive, I’ll tell you why. Having lived in Papua New Guinea so long that I can’t remember how to behave anywhere else, I have observed that Australians are laudably picky concerning spelling. I care about spelling only to the extent that I prefer not to appear as if I don’t care. Strangely enough, Americans seem more tolerant of UK/Australian spelling preferences than Australians are of the “Americanisms”. Therefore, I learned early on that, since a great deal of what I write ends up being seen by those who adhere to UK/Australian spelling than the American standards, it is prudent for me to use the Australian forms. It is simply too onerous a task to have to switch from one to another according to who might be the predominant audience. Australians seem to stumble over every Americanised (Americanized, if you are an American) form while Americans simply zip through text littered with Australian forms.

So, in the text of MPBM posts when there are alternate spellings you will usually not see the American forms. I’m not anti-American. I’m just catering to the closest audience and the one which finds the American forms to be a little odd. I’m not saying that Australians are spelling snobs. They are snobs about very few things, certainly no more things than Americans. However, there are some things which can set them afire. One is the American preference placing the letter z  near the end of words for which Australians insist must have an s.  For example, let’s take the word recognise.  To Americans this spelling appears strange, possibly exotic or even wrong. The Amercan form would be recognize. However, most Americans can recognise/recognize the word. They are not outraged by recognise.

Some Australians, however, would be compelled to point out, after careful consideration assisted by a healthy slug of Foster’s Lager, that is American  spelling. This might be accompanied by a slight frown.

So, there we have it. Now I have managed to insult both Australian and American cultures in a few brief paragraphs. If you are not already tired of the subject, you might look at an interesting Wikipedia item on American vs British Spelling Differences. I learned quite a bit from it.

Having dispatched my insults to my homeland and my favourite playground, it’s now time to proceed to the subjects. Last week I had the great blessing of a house guest. Dr. Riley Savage, a young Australian physician, has been in Madang several times working with the local hospital. Each time she was here she went out to dive with us. I invited her to take advantage of the guest rooms that Eunie and I had prepared so that visitors to Madang could economise by staying in a bed and breakfast atmosphere. It was a wonderful treat to have a friendly face for a few days in the big, lonely house.

We could not dive on the day before Riley was to fly back to Australia. This is because it is unwise to have any excess nitrogen in the blood before traveling to a high altitude. It can lead to symptoms of “the bends”. Instead, we went to visit old friends on Nob Nob mountain. Tag Tap took us for a brief bush walk. On our way up to his house we stopped at the Pacific Orientation Course camp to take in the view of Madang, Astrolabe Bay,  the North Coast and Kar Kar Island.  Here is a shot of Kar Kar Island  taken from the ridge upon which sets the huge TELIKOM communications tower:

The air was too hazy for a good shot. I had to massage this one very roughly. Kar Kar Volcano is potentially very dangerous. It is not gentle on our minds. One of the more interesting recent events occurred on the 4th day of December in 2009 when Kar Kar did not  erupt.

Here is a slight telephoto shot. I was attempting to get a better balance of tones. I tried combining multiple exposures including one underexposed, one normal and one overexposed. I then combined them in Photoshop for a single High Dynamic Range image:The resulting image is no improvement, but does have a point of interest. Look at the top of the big towering cumulus cloud (Cumulus congestus)  to the right of the peak. The rate of vertical development at the top of the cloud is so rapid that the two or three seconds between my exposures was long enough for multiple images to develop. Photoshop did a good job of lining up the three hand-held images, but it couldn’t cope with the motion at the top of the cloud. I’m still learning the HDR process. I was disappointed in this shot. I expected to be able to see detail in the brightest area of the cloud. I think the reason is that my underexposed frame was still washed out in the bright part of the cloud. I should have reduced the exposure even more to capture detail in the brightest areas.

While still on the ridge I shot this rather plain flower. It is not a very interesting shot except for the discoloured areas of the petals:

I’ve seen this on many flowers here. Red hibiscus blossoms often have bright blue patches which look a little wilted. It appears to me as if there is a base colour on the petal which is overlaid by another colour. If something happens which disturbs or removes the top layer of pigment the base colour shows through. You can get a hint of this by the general appearance of the petals. There is a hint of blue showing through.

When we started on our bush walk, I was strangely uninterested in shooting. I took only a couple of exposures. Riley was shooting everything, but I failed to get any images from her before she returned to Australia. This line of mushrooms up the side of a rotting tree did catch my eye:

Tag Tap said that they are edible. I’m cautious. I never eat wild mushrooms unless I find them at the market. These looked as if they were safe, but I don’t trust my extremely limited knowledge. Even if they are not poisonous, I might still be taken on a trip for which I’m not prepared.

I was greatly amused by this very elaborate flower. I think is is some kind of Pasiflora:I hope that Anne-Marie sees this and let’s me know what it is. Tag Tap says that it is used to combat fungal skin infections. If one has an itchy patch all that is needed is to find some of these and rub them vigorously on the skin. I had no itches, so I didn’t try it. Pasionfruit and Sugarfruit flowers are very similar in configuration and general appearance to this, but are much larger.

UPDATE: Anne-Marie rescued me with the species name. See her comment.

Getting back to Kar Kar, here are a couple of panoramic stitches of multiple images which include the island. You can see it in the distance at the left end of the large island:

With my equipment and skills images without obvious geometric distortion seem out of reach. I have seen a few, but the requirement for this seem complex to me. The shot above has no troublesome distortions, but it sags a bit in the middle. I ran out of time before I figured out how to correct this. I’m sure that Photoshop provides a method, but I couldn’t find it quickly.

A second series of exposure and a different style of stitching yielded this image:

The water line in this one is straight and most if it looks more realistic. However, the distortion at the right is distracting.

These images are for Rich Jones. Rich asked that the shot include the swinging rope from the Tarzan post. There was a Big Event at Blueblood recently of which I hope to write soon.

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Of Ships and Mushrooms

Posted in Mixed Nuts on October 15th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sleep still flees from me. I tire of chasing it. Maybe that’s the problem, that I’m chasing it. It had been my habit for a long time to shoot for eight hours. I seem to remember reading somewhere that as we age, we require less sleep. Maybe I don’t need eight hours. At any rate, I’m certainly not getting them. Except for a couple of nights when the events of the day relieved some of my stress, I seem to be averaging four or five hours in fitful episodes of no more that a couple hours at a time. Honestly, it’s exhausting.

I’ve received no small number of suggestions, none of which seems to help. Drugs are out, since I’ve decided that the “no substances” route is the safest way for me to get though this minefield. I don’t think that there is a magic bullet. I can but hope that as I heal and shake off this mantle of depression that is hindering my progress, some acceptable level of sleep will return.

Anyway, let me give myself a break from my constant whining and show you some pretty pictures of fungi. My friend from Hamilton, Ontario, Ron Barrons sent these two images a couple of days ago. He shot them last weekend on one of his regular outings into the wonderful countryside around the Niagara Escarpment:

Ron says that he likes shooting mushrooms because their growth patterns are interesting and they pose so nicely. I couldn’t agree more.

I am looking forward to visiting Hamilton again next year. I’ll be able see my son, Hans, and his family and my friends Ron and Brenda. Ron and I will take some long walks in the woods and try to outdo each other with our cameras. Here is a big mama mushroom and her babies on a fallen Birch tree:

There is no such thing as a “dead” tree in these woods. After they fall they begin a new life which takes them back to their origin.

I was always so happy with Our House. It’s big and roomy, plenty of room for parties. There is a dining room table which seats twelve. Now it seems somehow too big, too unrelentingly spacious. I’m rattling around in here like a forgotten marble in a boxcar. As I walked around the house last night wondering if I’d ever actually go to sleep instead of just feeling stupefyingly sleepy, a ship across the harbour caught my eye through the open door.  “Hey, I can make that interesting!”, I thought. Actually, I said it out loud. I’ve been talking to the walls a lot lately. Is that a bad sign?

I complained to a friend recently (something else I’ve been doing far to much of) that none of the things in life which used to give me joy are producing any these days. No joy. What to do. She said, “Pretend.” (she did elaborate on that) I thanked her and said that I would give it a try. It’s just crazy enough that it might possibly work. So, deciding to experiment, I grabbed my camera and tried to focus my mind on deriving some good vibes from the experience as I focused my G11 on the image. Hmmm . . . the image is ever so slightly blurry, but I did get a little tickle of satisfaction from getting just the shot that I had envisioned.

So, deciding that this pretending thing is worth pursuing, I went for a slightly more “arty” shot:

It’s not going to be hanging on any gallery walls, but it shouts at me nevertheless. It’s deafening. If fact, there are so many messages in this image that I could run on about it until you beg me to stop. It is the Vogon Poetry of pictures. I’ll let you puzzle it out for yourself.

In the meantime, I’m going to practice pretending. Maybe if I pretend enough, it might begin to feel real.

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Guest Shots – Trevor Hattersley and Ron Barrons

Posted in Guest Shots on October 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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I very much enjoy featuring images sent to me by my friends on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  Unfortunately, few friends send me samples of their work. I’m pestering a few of them to do so, but shyness seems to interfere. If you are a regular reader of this journal and you have images that you think will be appreciated by our audience, then please feel free to email them to me. Work them over until you are happy with them and send 1600 pixel (longest dimension) JPG images that are between 200 and 300 Kilobytes. Include some text describing the images and I will include that also. I’ve featured Trevor Hattersley’s images before here and here. Heidi Majano has also had a guest appearance.

Don’t be shy. Have a try.

We’ll start with a couple of shots from Trevor Hattersley. He’s been a keen amateur as long as I’ve known him, probably about twenty years. He recently purchased from me a spare (ordered two by mistake from Amazon) Olympus SP-590UZ superzoom camera and has been diligently learning to use it feature-by-feature. Up at Blueblood a couple of weeks ago he was playing with macro shots and came up with two very nice fungi:Bracket Fungi by Trevor HattersleyThis one of Bracket Fungi has very accurate colours, perfect focus and nice composition. A shot that anyone should be proud to display.

Here’s another fungi shot by Trevor:Mushroom-form fungi by Trevor HattersleyAgain, we have interesting and accurate colours, good composition, fine focus (click to enlarge) and a generally interesting and aesthetic image. Well done, mate! I was happy to see that Trevor resisted the urge to use flash on these shots. They are very natural looking – just the way that your eyes see them.

Now let’s move to another friend a world away. Ron Barrons hails from Hamilton, Ontario in Canada. He’s a very experienced and knowledgeable photographer with a good pair of hiking boots. Since Hamilton is the Waterfall Capital of the World, it’s not surprising that Ron has a plethora of beautiful images of water tumbling over rocks. The Niagara Escarpment is responsible for this cornucopia of waterfalls, something for which local photographers are eternally grateful.

Here is a beautiful shot of Grindstone Falls:Grindstone Falls by Ron Barrons

This one is of the cascade below the falls:Grindstone Falls Cascade by Ron BarronsRon has the “silky water” technique down pat. This requires a tripod, a neutral density filter to cut down the amount of light coming in through the lens, and long exposure times. The result is that the water takes on a very fluid and smooth look which intensifies the appearance of flow. You can see some of my Hamilton Waterfalls and our adventures in waterfall country here, here and here.

Ron is not a one-trick-pony. He sent several gorgeous Canadian Autumn shots taken from the heights around the Niagara Escarpment. This one is a beaut:

Canadian Autumn by Ron BarronsHere is another, looking up at the escarpment itself:A Canadian Autumn at the Niagara Esarpment by Ron Barrons

I could not resist the urge to try making a watercolour of one of Ron’s beautiful shots. This one is of Rattlesnake Ridge:Rattlesnake Point by Ron Barrons - Watercolour Rendition by MadDogYou will need to click to enlarge to see the full watercolour effect. Ron was kind enough to allow me to modify his work and publish it here.

I know that many of my readers must be serious hobby photographers. Please send me images that move you and allow me to showcase your work here.

I’m not fooling around. I mean it.

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Like a Bee to a Flower

Posted in My Garden on October 7th, 2008 by MadDog
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What’s a tiny mushroom got to do with bees and flowers? Absolutely nothing. There were a bunch of these popping up in our front yard after a heavy rain last night. They seem to favour spots that Sheba also favours when she feels the need to lighten her load. After the pile melts away the tiny mushrooms grow in rings around it. I can remember giant rings of mushrooms in the forest when I was a kid.

They’re called fairy rings:

Tiny mushroom

Here’s a nice little honey bee sitting on a leaf:

Bee on a leaf

I have a strange kind of low-growing hibiscus in the garden. I’m going to look it up sometime. I caught this tiny bee mining nectar and pollen way down inside:

Bee in hibiscus

This one is very interesting to me. I’ve seen many bees with their legs fat with pollen. This bee is different. It carries its load of pollen back to the hive on the underside of its abdomen:

Bee with pollen on his belly

That’s pretty much it for the bees today. What about more flowers?

Well, I have this interesting plant growing like a weed under my coconut trees. It’s some kind of mimosa (Mimosa pudica). People living in the tropics will probably already know it. If you brush against any part of the plant, the leaves fold up in a couple of seconds (nyctinastic movement).

Here is a photo of the flower and leaves:

Mimosa before tickling

Here is a photo taken a few seconds after I gave the plant a little jiggle:

Mimosa after tickling

You can see that the leaves have all folded up and now only the reddish-brown undersides are visible.

Isn’t that cool?

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