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 Spooky Eastern Sunset

Posted in At Sea, Under the Sea on June 1st, 2010 by MadDog
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Whoah, got a day behind again. What a bummer! I don’t know what happened to the clock yesterday. It kept moving in big, sporadic jumps. I had intended to tell you about Saturday evening at Kranket Island  where we had a party for Jo Noble’s birthday, but now I’ve already forgotten most of it.

The part that I do remember is the stunning sunset effects which we saw in the Eastern  sky. Yes, that’s right, you are looking East in this shot, just as the sun is nearing the horizon in the West:

I know that there is a proper name for this effect, but I can’t remember it right now. It’s 05:00 and I’m not going to trudge through Google to find it. I’ll count on a knowledgeable reader to leave a comment. The effect lasted less than five minutes.

The curve that you see in the ray on the right is an effect of the way which I took the panorama shots. The image is made up of about seven frames. Of course, the boat was sloshing around a lot, so it was difficult to hold the camera perfectly straight. The image covers about 150°

Here is a single frame image of the centre of the scene:

The main ray on the right side shoots up (or down, rather) past the huge cumulonimbus incus cloud on the horizon, which is still catching the last rays of the sun, reddened by their passage through the dusty lower atmosphere. I think that these rays are shadows of clouds near the horizon in the West. They appear to converge on the Eastern horizon at a point opposite the sun because they are passing through the atmosphere at a low angle and are visible for a long distance. Think of a pair of straight railroad tracks stretching off to the horizon. They seem to meet at a point in the far distance.

Okay, if that isn’t geeky enough for you how about the pileus cloud cap on the top of this towering cumulus cloud:

The pileus is the fuzzy little hat sitting on top of the cloud. It is formed when the cloud is rising very rapidly, pushing warmer, wetter air up into cooler areas. The moisture condenses out into a little lens-shaped cap which folds over the top of the main cloud.

Okay, enough meteorology. Since we’re doing reddish stuff, have a look at this Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata):

The image is actually upside-down. I found him under a ledge and could barely see him. I had to stand on my head and shoot to get the image. This fills your sinuses full of salt water pretty quickly. It usually produces a few good sneezes when you get right-side-up again. Sneezing into a regulator underwater is an amusing experience.

I’ll throw in one more reddish thing before moving on. This lumbering, spiky critter is a kind of Sea Cucumber, specifically (Thelenota rubralineata):

The rubralineata  is one of the more colourful Sea Slugs. I have another picture of one here.

Well, that’s it for yesterday’s post. I have to hurry on to today’s post or I’ll miss the sunrise.

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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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Guest Photographer Val Jerram – India With Eyes Wide Open

Posted in Guest Shots on November 25th, 2009 by MadDog
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I so much enjoy featuring the images of friends who share my passion for photography. Our long-time friend Val Jerram is a perfect example. Val is a world traveller of the first order. She’s been everywhere, man! She recently sent me some images from her last visit to India. I’m happy to present them to you here. Val shoots with a high-end point-and-shoot camera; she’s had a variety of them. These are great examples of what can be done with them by someone who reads the manual and has a good pair of eyes for composition and the moment.

Here’s a nice example. This image of a man playing the Sitar seems, at first, not particularly special. It’s nice, but . . . Okay, now look again. Look at the expression on the face of the old man in the background. Knowing Val, I don’t think this was an accidentally excellent shot. Here’s what Val had to say:

This gent Dr A. J. Tha serenaded us and played his sitar, along with a drummer at sunset as the fellow in the background paddled the boat down the Ganges river at sunset and we set our lighted candles to float on the water. There was a hive of activity because they were celebrating the religious festival of Diwale (The Indian equivalent of Christmas).

Sitar Man by Val JerramSounds better coming from Val, eh? Here’s another beautiful image preceeded by Val’s comment:

The picture of the man was taken in a remote village when we went for a walk after breakfast. We had stayed in the local fort which which was being restored and used as a hotel. It was in the province of Rajasthan.

Indian Man at Sunrise by Val JerramExquisite!

And, just to show that she’s not immune the the ‘tourist shot’ here’s one of the Taj Mahal:

Taj Mahal by Val JerramHey, wait a minute! That’s not your average tourist snapshot. That’s a well-thought-out, beautifully composed photograph worthy of exhibition.

Here’s one that Val described as, “A family out for a ride on the outskirts of town.”

Camel and Family by Val JerramNice use of the Rule of Thirds, angular elements and interesting cropping to capture the sense of motion.

This one is my favourite. Eat your heart out, National Geographic! Here’s what Val had to say:

On our ride on camels into the desert we had to take a break for some of our camel drivers to put their prayer mats down and face Mecca.

Camel Drivers by Val JerramOkay, but she didn’t walk over and take a shot of the guys praying, no not Val. That would be far too obvious. They are way up in the corner. Once you start to listen to the image, hearing what it’s about, you can’t stop looking at the fellows praying. It’s a setup job. She’s tricked you. All that beautiful colour and the smiling faces are red herrings.

And here is the talented lady herself:

It can get cool in the desert overnight. On the ride out those long sleeves protected me from the hot sun. The obligatory money pouch is strung around my neck.

Val JerramShe keeps saying that she’s going to take root for a while.

I don’t believe a word of it.

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Sunset Dreaming

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on October 17th, 2009 by MadDog
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Morning is my second favourite time of day. I’m usually up by about 05:30. The first thing that I do is look out of the front windows of our house to see what’s going on in the sky. The sunrise a few mornings ago displayed itself as a beautifully muted array of pastels. Here’s the wide-angle shot from our front yard:Sunrise in MadangIf you’re wondering about my favourite time of the day, it’s when I sit down in my favourite chair, with my favourite beer, my favourite brand of cheap cigars, a bit of favourite reading material and pet my favourite (only) dog, Sheba. I can feel the stresses of the day evaporating like a cool misty haze around me.

A minute or so later, I got this image with a mid-telephoto setting:Sunrise in Madang

Man, I love those colours. It’s too bad that, here in the tropics, sunrises and sunsets fly past so quickly. In general, they last about ten or fifteen minutes at the most. That’s because the sun (and moon) are rising and falling straight up or down, not at an angle as in temperate zones. You have to get your camera out and be ready. I have missed fantastic sunset shots by being only one minute too late.

Yesterday, I showed you an image of this same Notodoris Minor  Nudibranch. This image was taken at Planet Rock  with flash:Nudibranch (Notodoris minor) at Planet Rock

The one from yesterday was captured by available light at about 30 metres. You can compare the difference.

Here’s our old favourite the Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculatus)  also at Planet Rock:

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus) at Planet Rock

I’ve been concentrating very much on getting good specimen shots. I’m trying to get a publisher for a coffee table book called The Fishy Families of Madang.  Anything for a buck.

On the way back from Blueblood last Sunday on Felmara,  Mike Cassell’s boat, I caught our friend Frauke Meeuw dreaming in the sunset light:
Frauke Meeuw dreaming in the sunset

It is redundant to say that happiness is a state of mind.

So, I won’t say it.

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A Mixed Bag of Nature

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on October 11th, 2009 by MadDog
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Best plans aside, I find myself here at the office on Sunday morning. I ran out of time yesterday, so I managed to get only one post finished. Nevertheless, it was good luck, since I got some very nice sunrise shots this morning on the drive to the office. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see them, however. I’m still catching up with images.

Coming back from our dive a week ago on Saturday, I had to stop Faded Glory  in her track to get this image of the sun low in the sky over the airport. Dad told me, as he was teaching me photography, over and over, “Composition is King.” Pretty colours are nice. Sometimes we simply want snapshots to capture memories. However, when you’re shooting for something to hang over the mantle, you have to pick your moments and compose the shot with care. I like to think of myself as a painter. I ask myself where I would put my easel, what palette of colours would I use, how do I want to portray the subject, where do I want the viewer to focus?

Two Coconut SunsetThe two coconut trees in the image make a perfect focal point. Researchers have done some very interesting work using gadgets that can record where a subject’s eyes are looking at any instant as they view images. What they have found is that the eyes search out a particular point and keep coming back to it. As the viewer takes in the image and processes it, the eyes dart around the image, stopping at places of interest. Very often, however, the eyes return to a single point of interest. Click on the image above to enlarge it and study it a minute. I bet that your eyes keep returning to the two coconut trees. For an image of a person, the point of interest is almost always the eyes.

Now, let’s take a little trip to somewhere else. I don’t know where it is, but wherever we are the moon comes up in a most startling fashion. Okay, okay, it’s our front yard. A few evenings ago a friend called me saying that I had to run outside with my camera to catch the moon rising. (My friends know me.) I was a little tardy getting out with my tripod and camera, as I first had to dress appropriately. I was too late to catch the huge orange blob just above the horizon, but I’m quite happy with this image:

Psychedelic Moonrise

It can hardly be called a photograph now, since it has suffered merciless manhandling by Photoshop. Nevertheless, it is an interesting image. That’s all that I wanted.

And now, for something completely different.

I can’t pass up certain images that catch my eye underwater. Sea Squirts are among my favourites. They seem improbable to me. They clump together in a manner that makes me think of little hamlets where the faeries live:

Sea Squirts - Atriolum robustum

It seems that I’m waxing a tad too poetic this morning. Still, as faerie houses go, these are credible. The little houses above are Atriolum robustum.

There is a nice big fish called the Midnight Snapper (Macolor macularis).  As with many fish, the juvenile looks nothing like the adult. This is the juvenile Midnight Snapper:

Juvenile Midnight Snapper - Macolor macularis

It’s a terrible shot, but I excuse myself because this fish is fiendishly clever at avoiding the camera. They move constantly out of range (this is a telephoto shot) and always try to hide behind something.

I’ll wrap it up today with yet another image of this improbable Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata):

Blue Starfish - Linckia laevigata

Not aiming to sound irreverent, I beg forgiveness for imagining God as a kid, scattering around the universe all of the most treasured toys. Surely, this must be one of them.

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I’ll Take Whatever My Camera Gives Me

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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Because of my incredibly generous boss, with whom I sleep, I ended up with a five day holiday. Perhaps I should explain. My boss at the office also happens to be my wife. About the holiday, we had to skip one recently because of work loads, so she gave us that one back and another one following Independence Day. So, I was off from Wednesday and I don’t have to go back to the IT sweatshop until Monday. Hurah!

To celebrate, I’m going crazy (un . . . make that crazier). I worked on fourteen images this morning and I’m going to throw them at you in a more or less random order over the next two days. Some may amuse you. Some may not. Some may lead you to wonder what I’ve been smoking. All is well; it’s my job to amuse. It’s the only thing that I do with some degree of competency.

Let’s start out with this perfectly ordinary image of a perfectly ordinary object. It’s an Aussie barbecue. I can hear the Americans scoffing. Believe me, the Aussies scoff just as loudly at the Yank style. My friend Trevor Hattersley explained it yesterday:  “The Yanks got it upside down. They put the grill on top and the plate on the bottom. They do everything upside down up there in the Northern Hemisphere.”:

An Aussie BBQ

As a Yank, I’m not allowed closer than this to the barbecue. Sometimes they will allow me to start the fire, under close supervision. The white stuff on the big steel plate is sea salt left from the sea water used to ‘scrape’ the plate. The plate is never  cleaned. I’ve been told it sometimes takes years for the plate to develop the correct flavour. I case you’re wondering, the food that is cooked on this contraption is exquisite.

This shot of a hibiscus lit from behind with the coconut fronds and the dark blue sky in the background is exactly as it came from my Olympus SP-590UZ. Sometimes the camera is right. You don’t want to mess with it. I only did a little cropping:

Hibiscus lit from the back

As much as I like Flying Foxes, I’m shocked that I have no good shots of them. I’ll have to fix that someday. They are hard to shoot, because they are way up in tall trees, mostly beyond accurate slingshot range. Here is an early morning mob just settling in after a night out dining on the farmers’ papayas and bananas:

Flying Foxes

Here’s a shot a little closer in. You can see a couple of them flying around:

More Flying Foxes

This is as close as I could get from where I was standing. You can begin to see individuals. The really pack themselves in:

Still more Flying Foxes

Keeping with the day’s theme of randomness, here is a nice shot of an Indonesian style boat with Little Pig Island  in the background:

Indonesian boat

I would really love to have one of these. It’s a very pretty design. They travel thousands of miles over open ocean in these boats. I imagine that they must be very fuel efficient, since they are small and have a very long, slender hull. The outriggers make them very stable.

To finish up for today, here is a shot that I got on the way back from Blueblood on Wednesday. We had a birthday party up there for Di Cassell. We rode up and back on Mike Cassell’s boat. On the way back, the setting sun was glistening off of the water in a very magical way:

Sunset from Mike Cassell's boat

I particularly like the crazy angles in the shot. The horizon is level, but nothing else is straight. The Olympus did a nice job of exposing the image, even if the highlights are blown. You couldn’t expect much more from any camera given the dynamic range in the scene.

Unless you’re completely colour-blind, you’ll note that I converted the image to monochrome. Some things simply look better without the distraction of colour.

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