Seeing Red

Posted in On Tthe Road, Sedona on August 8th, 2011 by MadDog
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Today the subject is pretty much photography, because I’ve got so many other things on my mind that I cannot concentrate on writing. I’ve been trying to gather some images which convey the near-mystical beauty of this part of Arizona. It’s no wonder that Sedona has become a magnet for new age folk. I have to admit that I’m running up against the limitations of my Canon G11. I’m looking for a new camera. It will definitely be a Canon, because I think the brand delivers the biggest bang for the buck in each category.

Anyway, until I get some new gear, I’m still squeezing every bit of lemon juice out of my G11. Here is a High Dynamic Range shot of some red rock:

We’ve had some very blustery weather lately. These late summer storms are referred to locally as monsoons. I find that amusing. A big dust storm is now called a haboob. That term is mildly controversial, considering its origins. The sky has often been dramatic. Here the late afternoon sun strokes the top of one of the huge red rock formations with wine light:

I took that shot from Grace’s car as we were returning from Sedona to Oak Creek Village, a distance of about six miles.

At a family gathering at Red Rock Crossing I snapped this shot of lovely little Tana with a very famous red rock in the background:

Red Rock Crossing has appeared in many western films. You can find a very interesting list of them here.

Did I mention that the weather has been frisky? Here is an image of a huge Cumulonimbus Incus which we drove right through on the way back from a shopping trip to Cottonwood, Arizona:

It seems that Grace’s hobby is power shopping. I find it disconcerting. Shuffling around The Dress Barn for two hours does not thrill me. Next time I’m taking a book.

The weather is presenting me with some radical photo opportunities. Back in Oak Creek Village the late afternoon sun was valiantly drilling its way through the cloud cover:

The next evening presented a different sky from the same location:

Once in a great while I find a scene which makes me very glad that I travel always with my camera. If I had left it at home, I would have missed this seventeen frame panorama of the magnificent display of nature on the highway between West Sedona and Oak Creek Village:

The rainbow is real. I did have to increase the saturation to make it show up better. I’ve uploaded this to my server at 3000 pixels, but the original is over 18000 pixels wide. So, to give you a better view, I created a Microsoft Photosynth Panorama of the scene:

Being critical of my own work, I can see where my camera is letting me down. You can expect only so much from a camera in the less-than-five-hundred dollar price range. Maybe that is going to be fixed soon. It depends on how other things work out.

Life is about to become very interesting . . .

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The Panorama Techniques or Bore Me To Tears

Posted in Photography Tricks on November 12th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m not sure why I suddenly got the idea that somebody out there might be interested in this. My brain works, when it works, in mysterious ways.

I did a two-frame exposure with my Canon G0 a couple of days ago of a mediocre sunrise. As I was stitching it together and going through the process of determining if it was worth keeping, I began to think of the steps as a sort of dance with the pixels (don’t ask). So, from that demented state, this post was born.

Let’s start at the beginning. Well, not really at the beginning. We’ll start with the image that Photoshop coughs up after you load the two frames into its Photomerge feature. Here’s what you get if you are lucky and you’ve held the camera straight and overlapped the two shots correctly. It helps to have a “Panorama” setting on your camera, because it will set the exposure on the first frame and then keep it the same for each subsequent exposure. Otherwise, you might have to set your camera on manual or use an exposure lock feature, if you can find it. Anyway, here’s the starting point for our purpose:

The two-frame panorama as stitched together by Photoshop

As you can see, Photoshop had to do some fancy footwork to make the two frames blend together as if they were a single exposure. That’s why the shape is funny. If you’re doing more that two frames, it can get a little crazy. That’s why it’s always best to shoot several sequences of the same panorama. Hopefully, one of the sequences will come out more or less straight, indicating that you were holding the camera in a consistent way and lining the shots up correctly.

You can see in the shot above that the horizon bulges down a little and is slightly tilted. We use the controls in the Filter | Distort | Lens Correction feature of Photoshop to fix these problems:After straightening the curved horizon

Now we have a nice straight and level horizon, but the image is squeezed in at the bottom. If we don’t fix this, we’ll lose part of the sky when we crop it to a rectangle.

We use the same filter as before, except we use a different control to pull the bottom of the image out toward us. You can think of it as if you were looking at the image on a canvas and you tilted the top of the canvas back away from you. Now the image is more or less rectangular. We can get away with this in this image because we have no obvious lines that must be kept vertical or horizontal, except for the horizon, which we’ve already fixed:Stretching the bottom to make the image more rectangular

These controls are very handy for images that contain architecture. You can fix those buildings that look as if they are leaning back away from you.

Now, we crop (trim) the image so that looks compositionally correct. On this image it is a no-brainer. If we were dealing with other images we might want to think of the Rule of Thirds. Here, however, we just need to grab as much detail as we can:Cropping the image to the area of interest

Notice that, because I did not want to lose any of the detail high in the sky, I had to cheat on the crop a lttle at the upper corners. That’s no problem. We can use the Clone Stamp tool in Photoshop to pick up bits from one place in the image and blend it in somewhere else. This is one of the coolest things since sliced bread.

It this image you can see that I filled in the missing areas:Cloning in the missing bitsWe still have the problem of the boat intruding on the image, but we can fix that also by cloning some of the water near the boat to cover it up.

Now the boat is gone and all that is needed is to adjust the final colours:

Cloning the boat out and adjusting the final coloursThe whole job took about ten minutes. That’s far less time that it took to tell you how I did it.

If you like photography and you want to look like a pro, learn to use Photoshop. It’s the easiest fake-out job on the planet.

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More Stupid Photography Tricks

Posted in Photography Tricks on October 27th, 2009 by MadDog
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I have a big mash-up for you today. Photographers get bored just like normal people, believe it or not. The hobby which has produced, historically, even more geeks than computers is not immune to ennui.

For instance, who gets up at 05:00 almost every morning and sits in the front yard waiting to see if anything interesting will happen:

Today's Sunrise

Me, apparently.

And who, on the way back from the beach when it’s too noisy on the boat to talk and there’s no more beer sticks his $400 camera over the side to snap the frothy goodness of the wake:

Wake spray at night

Me, apparently.

And who, when his adorable wife exclaims in her best teeny-bopper squeak, “Oh, look! A Simpsons Sky!” has to stop the car immediately and take a picture:

A Simpson Sky

Me, apparently.

And who, having taken a picture that is abominably bad, will not stop slaving away with Photoshop until he has taken this:

Canoe watercolour - original

And turned it into this:Canoe watercolour

Me, apparently.

It’s still abominably bad, but at least it’s colourful. If you shop at Woolworths, you can pick up prints like this for $2.99.

As you can probably tell, I’m a little pressed for time today. I have to haul a mob of visitors up Nob Nob Mountain. Not my favourite trip.

At least I’ll have my camera with me.

Pictures tomorrow!

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The Last Fish

Posted in At Sea, Photography Tricks on April 14th, 2009 by MadDog
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The Game Fishing Association of Papua New Guinea 2009 Titles are over now. I enjoyed going over the The Madang Club each evening to take photos for the Madang Game Fishing Club, but I am, as are not a few others, breathing a sigh of relief that it’s all over for another four years. They rotate the host club of the Titles around so that nobody has to host it more than once every four years.

The last image that I want to show you from the competition is this beautiful sailfish. I have never seen one in the water. I’ve been told that the colours are so fantastic that they appear unreal – as if it were some kind of incredible neon sign. Immediately upon being removed from the water, the colours begin to fade as the fish dies. It’s sad:

A beautiful sailfish
I should say that it is sad for the fish. Obviously the fishermen are happy with their catch. We have lived off the sea from the time the first human walked for the first time to a beach, picked up a bivalve, smashed it open, and found something tasty inside.

On to other matters.

If you are a regular reader you know that I am a sky freak. Just about any place on earth you can stand in one place, practising a little patience, and you will be rewarded by the sky with relief from boredom. The sky is a forever movie. It’s never the same scene twice.  Here is a stormy morning in Madang. About fifteen minutes later it was bucketing down rain:

Stormy morning panorama in Madang, Papua New Guinea

The image above is a stitch-up of five exposures and covers a viewing angle of about 160°. It is ridiculously simple to take these panoramic shots. Most new digital cameras have a special mode to help you line them up. There are a variety of programs, some of them free, that will stitch the individual images together smoothly so that it appears that the image was captured with one exposure. The advantage is, of course, that it is the only way that you can get such a wide field of view in one image. For instance, have a look at these panoramic shots of Prague and Budapest. You may want to click on the panoramas to feel the full effect.

I categorise this next one under “happy accidents.” If you are a photographer, you will recognise that it is a very long exposure. The primary clue is the appearance of the water. Long exposures give the water that “fuzzy mirror” look. This was a fifteen second exposure. The long exposure cancels out all the little sparkles from many, many wave reflections and blends them all together so that they appear smooth, while fixed features on the land remain sharp:

Long exposure sunrise with Air Niugini plane on approach

The shot above would be unremarkable except for the rumble that I heard immediately after I pushed the shutter release. At that point I noticed the Air Niugini flight coming in on its crosswind leg and getting ready for its turn to approach the runway on my left. If you click to enlarge you will see the tracks left by the lights of the plane and the little blips where the strobes were firing.

Here is another fifteen second exposure that I grabbed earlier on the same morning. I’m tossing it in just because I like the magenta tones and the stars around the lights. You get these star patterns when you have the iris of your camera nearly closed. I had stopped mine down to f8 and added a neutral density filter so that I could get the long exposure time at 80 ISO. Sorry about all the geeky details, but some out there might be interested.

Magenta Sunrise

In olden times, any serious photographer would include all of the information about an exposure in the details of the image. The information would include the camera make an model, the lens used, the opening of the lens (the f  stop), the shutter speed, the maker and type of film, the speed of film, the type developer and other chemicals used to process the film, the type of projector used to print the exposure, the lens of the projector, the f stop and time of the exposure, the type of paper used, its speed, chemicals used to develop the print, any tiltage, burning or dodging used in the exposure, and probably a half dozen other items that I’ve forgotten.

All that was before digital. It’s much easier now.

I leave you today with an interpretation. Taking photographs is only half the fun. Improving Mother Nature’s handiwork is the other bit. Here is my interpretation of a sunrise panorama that I captured last week:

A blazing sunriseI call it Heaven’s Gate.

Pretty corny, eh?

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Sun Comes Up – Divers Go Down

Posted in Under the Sea on March 4th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I get up early on a Saturday morning and it looks like this:

Sunrise in my front yard - Canoe and birdsI feel as if the world is grinning at me. I grin back.

Here’s some images from a recent Saturday Dive.

If the name on your Birth Certificate was Plagiotremus rhinorrhynchos, I’d feel empathy for you. If you can imagine the sad story of a boy growing up in a very tough neighbourhood with the name of Jan Messersmith, maybe you could appreciate my empathy. I still have scars on my knuckles to attest to the agony. I’ve never forgiven my mother for it. It’s even worse for this little fellow. His nickname is Bluestripped Fangblenny. No wonder that he’s hiding in a hole:

Bluestriped Fangblenny (Plagiotremus rhinorrhynchos)I’ve shown Blennies on Madang – Ples Bilong Mihere, here, here, and here.

I made it worse for myself when I reached the age of sixty. I decided enough is enough. I’m old enough to decide what I want to be called. So I changed the pronunciation of my given name. Instead of the much-maligned Jan (rhyming with can) I decided I wanted to be called Jan (rhyming with yon – as in “By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes”). As you can imagine, this caused much consternation and no little laughter among my friends. I felt like a clown. I still do. I don’t mind. Speaking of clowns, here’s a Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula):

Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)I showed you another Clown Anemonefish here.

While we’re on Anemonefish, let’s have a couple of more. Try these Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):

Clark's Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)I have no idea who Clark is. I can only assume it is not Clark Kent. He doesn’t seem the type to have a fish named for him. However, his alter-ego might be proud to have an Amphiprion supermanii.

Hmmm . . . I appear to be drifting. I’m like a teensy-weensy tectonic plate drifting on a molten globe of magmatic thought. I’d better get out of here.

But, before I leave for the day, I’ll show you my favourite of the day. Here’s the darling, shiny, all-too-brilliant Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus): (you can find another Spinecheek here.)Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)Would that I were so handsome, but ça ne fait rien.

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New Panoramas

Posted in Photography Tricks on February 8th, 2009 by MadDog
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A couple of days ago it was a misty, cold morning. Low clouds were drifting slowly over the Finnisterre Mountains across Astrolabe Bay from Madang. I got this panorama on the way to the office. Madang residents and those who have lived here will find this scene very familiar:
Misty panorama of the Finisterre Range across Astrolabe Bay from Madang
I did the next panorama when I was visiting Samarai Island along the way from Madang to Port Moresby on Miss Rankin:

I used Microsoft Photozoom to prepare the image. If you don’t have Microsoft Silverlight on your computer, you’ll need to download it – it should only take a short while.

When you have Silverlight installed, use your mouse (drag it around) to pan back and forth and up and down. Use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out. Try the “Full Screen View” – it’s terrific! You can see people on the dock.

Samarai is a fascinating place – full of historical and cultural treasures. I’ll be doing more posts on Samarai and I’m writing an article for Niugini Blue that will have more photos and some interesting background information.

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Madang Potpourri

Posted in At Sea, Mixed Nuts on November 10th, 2008 by MadDog
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Lacking any coherent plan for writing today, I’ll bombard you with a wet, wet collection of miscellanea from Madang.

When the sun slithers down western sky in the afternoon, the opposite side of the harbour takes on a winelight glow that is very pleasing:

Canoe panorama

The lady in the canoe was a bit of an accident. I started this three-frame panorama at the left, not noticing that she was coming past the front of our dock. Surprised, I snapped the middle shot anyway and then the final one to the right. I lost a bit of the wake from her canoe because it had dissipated by the time that I snapped.

This is a long telephoto shot of Madang with the Finisterre mountains in the background. I was going to delete it because it’s a little blurry:

Madang from Tab Anchorage

Not every image has to be perfect. It’s just a goal.

I have shown you Little Pig Island before. Here’s another long telephoto shot with the Finisterre range in the background:

Little Pig Island against the Finnesterre Mountains

Again, not as sharp as I’d like, but interesting in an arty way.

This is a shot from some years ago of multiple fuzzy flying saucers hovering over Kar Kar Island. Insofar as I’m aware there were no encounters of the third kind or abductions:

Lenticular clouds over Kar Kar Island

If you would like to see some other (better) photos of lenticular clouds, try here, here, here, and here.

I was looking back over my off-shore shots of the Coastwatcher’s Monument. I think that I have found a better one than I showed to you before:

Another shot of the Coastwatcher’s Monument in Madang

This one is going on one of the postcards that I’m designing. I had hoped to have them out by Christmas time, but that’s not looking likely. I’ll be writing a post on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi when they are on sale in the shops and hotels.

Finally, I’d like to show you a view from our front yard when the chip ship is leaving:

The chip ship

It’s big! There is a wood-chipping factory right next door to us. When the mountain gets too high, they send in a huge ship to haul the chips off to make boxes.

So much for the trees.

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