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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Guest Shooter Ron Barrons – Sunrise at Moosonee

Posted in Guest Shots on July 1st, 2010 by MadDog
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It’s always a pleasure to feature the photography of friends who take their art seriously. I don’t mean seriously as in “pedantic”, but seriously as in “I find meaning and pleasure in this.” Geeky photographers bore me. One can get so wrapped up with the gear and the technicalities that the objective of the art is missed. It’s not about the cameras or the f-stops or whether you use this or that method. It’s not even about whether it is judged by somone that it is a “good photograph” or something less. It’s about the shared experience between the photographer and the viewer. If no emotional connection is made, then, as far as I am concerned, it’s just another snapshot no matter how technically perfect it may be. On the other hand, many so-called “snapshots” turn out to be very powerful images. It’s all about the moment and the intuition which drives the photographer’s finger on the button.

Much of my work is snapshots. I send them along to you, if I find them amusing. Ron’s contribution today, however, is art. Let’s let Ron tell about it in his own words:

One of my hopes for from my trip to Moosonee was to photograph a nice sunrise over the Moose River at the time of the summer solstice. I think you will agree that this hope fell beyond that of simply nice to well within the realm of quite spectacular.

The attached sunrise photos were taken between 4:54 and 5:18 AM from the water taxi dock at Moosonee on the Moose River. Up until shortly after sunrise (5:06 AM) there was no breeze and the river looked like a sheet of glass. There seemed to be a correlation between the sunrise and the immediate breeze. I’ve not found what this phenomenon might be called, but no doubt it is related to sun’s warming influence. It was quite pronounced to say the least. By the way, I took 101 photographs from when I arrived at the river’s edge at 4:50 AM and 5:18 AM when the show was over.

I should mention that the Moose River empties into James Bay about 20 kilometres to the north-east from Moosonee (see the Google Earth Image).

Here is one of my favourites:The symmetry here is simply beautiful with the near-perfect reflection of the sky on the water. It also includes a very important compositional rule, “angled lines”.

Here is a real beauty just before the sun peeks over the horizon:Here is another nice compositional feature “converging lines”. The boards and the shape of the dock direct your attention beautifully to the focal point of the sunrise.

This one is even better:

Now the sun is up and all of the foreground elements take you right to it. I like the subtle differences in the colour treatment also. As Ron mentions, you can see that the wind has some up. The rough water surface give a completely different mood to the image.

Here the horizon mid-split seems to break a compositional rule, but it works beautifully:It’s hard to argue about rules when the proof is in the pudding. This is very nice work, indeed.

You know, I love the warm colours of the shots above, but for sheer beauty and a keen eye for the image, I’d put this shot in the National Geographic league:Breathtaking, eh? Ron, you are welcome here any time. Thanks for giving me and our readers some genuine eye-candy today.

Here’s the Google Earth image which Ron mentioned:

Speaking of images from space, I can’t leave without showing you this just in from the fabulously expensive NASA probe which has just beamed back it’s first images of the surface of Planet X. Hold onto your hats, folks. This is weirdsville:

The astonishingly craggy, wrinkled surface has planetologists scratching their heads. One was heard to mumble, “What the . . .” as the image unwrapped itself on the screen while sweaty, glowing faces gathered around.

Another exclaimed, as a little foam dribbled from the corner of his mouth, “It . . . it looks like . . . like an old man’s foot!”

Go figure.

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Water Comes Down – Water Goes Up

Posted in Guest Shots, Mixed Nuts on April 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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I have some very amusing images from two dear friends who are guest shooters today and a couple of shots of my own. I very much enjoy featuring images from friends. I hope that I’ve given enough encouragement to readers to send me images which have spoken to them. If not, I’m issuing the invitation once again. I started this as a source of eclectic amusement and information. There is much here about Madang and our lives and interests. However, our many readers have much to contribute also. The more participation that we have, the more interesting Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  will become.

Our first shot today comes from our Hamilton, Ontario friend, Ron Barrons. Ron said that his wife treated him to a visit to Niagara Falls recently. One can only speculate what prompted that generosity. Anyway, Ron captured this stunning image of the falls through the window of their hotel room:Now, I don’t want to take anything away from the beauty of this picture. Great job, Ron. Makes me drool. However, I’m picturing Brenda’s face as Ron fiddles with his tripod and his f-stops and his shutter speed while she re-thinks the whole idea. Ron, I can only pray that you did not ask her to carry your tripod. Women hate  that! There’s an old photographers’ joke that goes like this:  A life-long English amateur photographer dies. At his funeral his wife is overheard to say, “Ah, well, it’s a pity he’s gone, but at least I don’t have to carry his bloody tripod any more.”

Here’s a lovely shot from the lovely Tracey Lee. It’s a waterspout shot at Honiara in 2006:There’s some pretty furious action there at the base. We had another waterspout from Trevor Hattersley just the other day. Nice one, Tracey!

And, now that we’ve disposed of the title of this post, we’ll move on to this crisp shot of Old Fort Niagara again by Ron Barrons:Fort Niagara is the oldest surviving building in the Great Lakes area, having been erected in 1726. It is also the oldest continuously occupied military site in North America. This looks like a long telephoto shot to me. I got images of parts of the fort area from the same spot with my Olympus SP-590UZ the last time I was up there. I nearly froze my bum off.

This morning the southern sky was wonderfully back lighting Kar Kar Island.  I had to get up on the top of the roof of my truck to get this shot. It would have been better from the top of my house, but I was to wobbly at that time of the morning for ladders:Whenever there is a lot of news about volcanoes, such as the current fracas in Iceland, we all cast wary eyes toward Kar Kar Island. It’s listed as one of the most potentially dangerous volcanoes in the world and it by no means dormant. It rumbles and smoked regularly. There was a recent report that it has erupted, but that turned out to be a false alarm.

Last for today, but my no means least, are the Two Eunice Messersmiths:The larger model on the left is my gorgeous wife. The little one in the middle is also Eunice Messersmith. Her mom, Maureen, was raised in our house by her mom, Juli who has been our haus meri  and general manager of the house for over twenty years. Juli is sort of like a daughter to us, so Little Eunice Messersmith is like a great-granddaughter. Juli came into the office to show us Little Eunice’s birth certificate, a document which few Papua New Guineans even possess. It says right there that her name is Eunice Messersmith. Go figure!

I like her very stylish pink shades. She’s gonna be trouble!

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Nearing the End

Posted in Guest Shots, Mixed Nuts on December 30th, 2009 by MadDog
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Counting the years as they whiz past seems less fun than it did at twenty. And, whizzing past they are.  It’s a pity that life speeds by so quickly as you get close to whatever is at the end. It feels as if I’ve had the pedal to the metal since I was thirteen and now I’m running flat-out in the fog at night with my hair on fire. The thought, “Pretty soon I’ll be dead.” intrudes daily into my otherwise manageable world.

Well, there is no sense in crying over milk that has yet to be spilt. It’s not that death frightens me. I made peace with death a long time ago. Accepting The Big Sleep as something that is as natural as life itself, indeed, defining life,  has removed the heebie-jeebie factor from the death equation for me. There’s some kind of Big Plan. My death is simply a part of that. I’ve been inches or seconds from death so many times that I’ve lost count. I’ve lost interest in counting. Death is the biggest tease of all. How close can  you get?

No, I’m not going to off myself. I’m having way too much fun for that. I’ve been sitting here listening to Pink Floyd for about three hours now. That’s enough to make anybody ponder darkly the meaning of life.

Today I’m feeding you a stew of images that don’t fit anywhere else. Butter up some bread and have a seat:

That was Wongat Island  which just flew past and is left in the wake of Mike Cassell’s boat, Felmara,  on our way up to Blueblood on Christmas Day. It has a very nice beach and is the only place that I know of where you can pick up magnificent specimens of weathered blue coral. I’ll have to do a post on it someday.

This is a much prettier island image. I think that it is Sinub Island;  the outline looks right. I wasn’t really paying much attention to navigation, since I wasn’t driving:The sun lit it up nicely and a polarising filter over the lens darkened up the sky just as it is supposed to do. The big Cumulonimbus cloud is casting a lovely reflection on the sea.

Here is an example of how to blow out your whites. The little sensor in my Canon G9 simply can’t handle the dynamic range of brightness levels in this shot:The rest of the image was recoverable, except for the blocked blacks which I can live with in this image. However the bright area in the centre was blown out to pure white. I couldn’t get any detail out of it. This is where a US$5,000 camera comes in handy, if you have the moolah for it. I had to fake something in there, so Photoshop saved the day with the Selective Colour tool set on Absolute. Choosing Whites as the colour, I tweaked up the Yellow slider and added just a touch of Red. It looks a little fakey, but hey, what do you expect for a tenth of the price?

This shot fits my mood today like a glove. It’s raining and cold outside; Eunie would say that it’s winter today in Madang. The Finnisterre Mountains  are glowering in the distance as rain tumbles down from the gravid clouds:Mind, when we say ‘cold’ were talking maybe 24°C (75°F). I never sweat any more. My body has fallen deeply in love with tropical weather. In Indiana, at this time of year, I’d be dead in a month – I’m sure of it!

I gave you a frame of this series of sunrise over Astrolabe Bay  in another post. I like this one better:The canoe man is more clearly visible here. I also used a different mood for the colours. You can compare them, if you like.

Since I seem to be wallowing in the ephemeral nature of life today, here is a perfect image with which to illustrate the principle:

When I named this image Ephemeral Mushrooms, I thought that I was being very cute and trippy. Then I Googled the phrase and got 731 hits. So much for originality. Among other scholarly titles was, The Predictability of Ephemeral Mushrooms and Implications for Mycophagous Fly Communities.  That will give you the gist of the subject. I didn’t even know that mycophagus flies had  communities. I thought they were like wandering hunter-gatherers.

Okay, okay, I’ll wrap up this orgy of self-pity and random fluctuations with a Guest Shot by our fine friend and enthusiastic fellow photographer, Ron Barrons of Hamilton, Ontario. Ron, like myself, is a waterfalls buff. Here is his latest shot of Princess Falls.
I call the image above Princess Falls Mugged.  That’s because it’s my interpretation of the image that Ron sent to me. As I do, Ron struggles with ‘flat light’. He emailed the image to me with the remark that the lighting that day was very flat. My addition of a blue sky at the top seems to contradict this, but it’s fake. Punching up the contrast and increasing the γ of the image did wonders for it. Lightening only the shadows and changing the water in the pool from sickly green to deep blue put on the finishing touches. Actually, I liked the shot the way Ron sent it to me.

By the way, Ron said that Princess Falls only works when it rains. Otherwise it is dry. A dry waterfall. Hmmm . . . Is  it a waterfall, when it’s dry? Anyway, Ron said that he was going out to try again, but it will have to wait until all the ice is gone. Thank heavens I  don’t have to deal with that!

I simply couldn’t resist “improving” it.

Ron is a forgiving guy.

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Skies – Trees – Tug Boat – Guest Ron Barrons

Posted in Guest Shots, Mixed Nuts on November 17th, 2009 by MadDog
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I was very happy this week to get a couple of gorgeous images from our friend Ron Barrons.  Ron lives in Hamilton, Ontario where our son and his family also reside. We’ve had many happy times in Hamilton with family and visiting Ron and his wife, Brenda. Ron has been a guest on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  here.

This one gives me goose-bumps. I could bore you to tears with my analysis of this image. It’s got it all. The composition is perfect, using just about every rule to perfection. Note at the right side on the horizon that you can see the bridge connecting Hamilton to Toronto. Click to enlarge (I wish I had a higher resolution image for you) and you’ll see it better:

Hamilton, Ontario Sunrise by Ron Barrons That bridge makes a wonderful focal point in the enlarged image.  All of the lines and shapes seem to point to it. You can’t keep your eyes away from it, but it doesn’t dominate.

Here’s another fine composition by Ron. Though I hate being cold, I do envy the photographers who live in temperate regions with beautiful deciduous forests that glow with surreal colours in the autumn. Ron beautifully captured the serenity of this scene. I don’t know where the image was shot, but I’d like to go there and sit for a while, in a warm coat with a cold Chardonnay and a cigar:Trees mirrored by Ron BarronsNice job, Ron. Please, keep them coming!

Well, I feel a little inadequate this morning to compete with that. Hey, it’s not a competition anyway. It’s a sharing. So, A couple of mornings ago, I got this mid-telephoto of the sun rising above Madang Town across the harbour from our house:Madang sunrise with copra boat heading to Kar Kar IslandThe shot shows the limitations of the sensors in point-and-shoot cameras such as my Canon G9, my carry-about camera. No matter what I did, I could not bring up any decent detail and colour in the shadowed town. The dynamic range of brightness in the scene was just too much for the sensor to capture.

The main advantage of a big, full 35mm frame (called FX) sensor in an expensive digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera is that each ‘bucket’ (pixel) that collects photons of light is bigger. This means that the number of photons counted from adjoining buckets will be more accurate because the random fluctuations caused by several factors will be smaller. In other words, there will be less noise  in the image. Noise shows up as little speckles that shouldn’t be there. The bigger buckets also collect more photons, so the calculations in the computer in the camera can more accurately deliver a wider range of brightness levels (dynamic range).

Here’s how I think of that. Imagine marking off an area in your yard ten metres square. First, put out 1,000 little buckets filling the area as best you can and wait for a big rain. Now measure the water in each bucket. You’ll find a comparatively large difference between buckets, when you would have expected them to be all the same. This is noise. Now remove the 1,000 buckets and replace them with 100 buckets filling the area (they will have to be bigger  buckets). Now wait for a rain which drops about the same amount of water. This time, when you measure the water in the buckets you will find that there is much less difference between them. You have reduced the noise. That’s one important reason why bigger sensors are better. You don’t want more pixels, that can make the noise worse, because each pixel must be smaller. What you want is bigger  pixels.

There are other reasons that bigger sensors are better, but those are even more boring.

This shot made me a little happier:Tug boat in the morning light across the harbour from our houseIt’s a little fakey looking, because I had to massage it pretty vigorously with Photoshop, but it’s cheery, so I’ll satisfy myself with that.

I went a little crazy with the panorama concept in this one:Madang Town morning panoramaIf you click to enlarge, you can see quite a bit of detail in Madang Town, including a blurry band around the tall coconut tree to the left of centre where Photoshop failed to blend properly the adjacent frames when it was building the merged image.

We’re having fish tomorrow! Somebody bring the tartar sauce.

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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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