The Red Planet Diner – Sedona

Posted in On Tthe Road on July 17th, 2011 by MadDog
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Nobody, not even residents of Sedona, could deny that it is an eminently quirky community. In fact, that is its primary claim to fame. We have been exploring some of the local attractions. Grace has lived here for seventeen years, so she knows the lay of the land pretty well. One place which attracted my attention from the beginning is the Red Planet Diner on Route 89A, the main drag through Oak Creek Village.

It’s not all that impressive from the outside. It defies the sensibilities of the Sedona Color Police, who insist that desert tones are the only suitable shades for architecture. Sedona is the only place in the world where the golden arches of McDonalds are teal. Aside from the flashy neon sign in front, there is not much to attract the attention of passersby.

Oh, wait. There is one other little thing.  Just off the road in front of the parking lot is a captured flying saucer. As I have heard, the proper term is Unidentified Flying Object. This, however, does not seem to fit, as this object has been clearly identified. It is an Unreasonably Funny Object:

I won’t show you images of the food. I’ve had to many complaints about ugly food here at MPBM. I will, however, say that the menu is typically diner-style. There are plenty of choices and the meal we had was very tasty. They have a decent bar. The service is cheerful and amusing. All of the staff wear t-shirts bearing the greeting, “Welcome Earthlings.”:

It probably the only establishment on the planet featuring an alien restroom attendant:

Alas, there is no jukebox. The selection boxes at the tables have long been colonized by tiny aliens:

Other small aliens float ghostlike around the ceiling while their scout ship hovers silently:

A more robust alien serves as maître d’:

The usual “Please wait to be seated” placard is replace by a more amusing version.

I couldn’t resist posing Grace at the door. Really, someone should talk to these aliens about clothing:

Grace was visibly discomfited by the proximity of a naturalist alien.

I find myself in a place where being far out on the fringes of the bell curve is perfectly acceptable. The presence of many long-haired, freaky people is very comforting. It’s not unlike a warmer Hamilton, Ontario, except for the pervasive woo-woo factor. It will be interesting to see what happens to Sedona when the New Age becomes passé, as it surely will.

Nothing lasts forever.

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Guest Shooter – Cairns Through Karen Simmons’ Eyes

Posted in Guest Shots on August 22nd, 2010 by MadDog
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Today was a good day, because we would be very alone without our friends and two of our best are here with us in a time of need. Yesterday I worked a bit in the afternoon and later in the evening with Karen Simmons, who has a very nice Olympus SP590UZ camera, but wanted to learn how to do some things a little more exciting than snapshots. I was only too happy to oblige.

We started out on the balcony with lessons about shutter speed and aperture, probably the two most important fundamentals one needs to understand about a camera. It’s not rocket science, but they are things which casual shooters are probably not thinking about.

After a while, Karen was understanding it all, but getting restless. We started on the fancy options of her camera. One is a highly tricked-out panorama mode which actually builds the shot inside the camera so that you don’t have to fiddle with it in Photoshop. You just download the finished image onto your computer:That’s a very respectable image of the Cairns Marina from the balcony of the apartment. So far, so good. We’re into the advanced shots already.

Of course, we had to go down into the streets in the evening for the really fun shots, such as this UFO candidate which is actually the blurred lights of a passing car. Once Karen started to use the shutter speed priority setting on the camera to select a very slow shutter and she learned to brace the camera securely, she was able to take shots such as this until the novelty began to wear off:

It doesn’t take long. One thing leads to another.

There is a big festival on in Cairns now. On the Esplinade was a big tent sporting some action. It was good for Karen to have a go a what I would consider nearly impossible shots:

Though just about every condition for a decent shot is missing here, she still managed to grab a decent image of some Torres Straits Islanders performing a traditional dance.

This is my favourite of Karen’s shots for the night. Simply placing the camera on a flat surface for bracing allowed this beautiful low shutter speed image, as long as the girl didn’t move:

Fortunately, she was sitting quite still.

This is another real beauty. The lighting and composition here is very pleasing. Karen was amazed at the shots she was getting with just a little understanding and practice:

She managed to catch the single swimmer playing with the water gushing from the fountain.

Karen wanted to shoot the fountain close up to catch the water spray. I told her that I didn’t think it would be possible with the amount of light available. I was both right and wrong. There was not enough light to freeze the drops, but what she wanted was the impression of the flowing streams:

After fiddling with the camera for a while, she got exactly what she wanted. Frankly, I would not have thought to do this, but it is an excellent image technically and the composition is very interesting.

One thing that people who fancy themselves as good photographers sometimes lose is the crazy spontaneity that sometimes produces a very amusing image. Here is a beautiful example of what I’m talking about.

Again, I would never have thought to try this shot. It’s nearly impossible to get the timing right.

Fortunately for me and you, Karen didn’t know that. My advice is don’t learn too  much. You’ll start thinking like a geek.

Good on ya, Karen.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Tonight we see an oncologist for the first time concerning Eunie’s condition. I can never remember feeling more anxiety in my life. It is the first time that we may have a chance to catch a glimpse of the future. If you know my wife, you very likely already love her. She is simply that kind of person. If you are a thinker, think good vibes in her direction. If you’re a prayer, pray for a merciful verdict this evening.

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Karen’s Most Excellent Adventure

Posted in Photography Tricks on August 21st, 2010 by MadDog
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Our dear friends Trevor Hattersly and Karen Simmons came yesterday to stay with us for the weekend. What a pleasure it is to have them here. I’ll talk more about why at the end of the post.

While I’m at it, I’ll explain my tactic for keeping Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  a pleasant place to visit while still giving information concerning Eunie’s medical condition. I’ll present my usual weirdness in the beginning of each post. Casual readers can, as usual, like it or not, according to their tastes. At the end each post I will give any news concerning Eunie. This seems to be the best way to keep the character of the journal as it has been in the past, while still giving out information which is of concern to some readers.

So, if you’re here for the distraction or frivolity, read as far as you like and then go your happy way. If you’re here for the news, try to wade through my craziness and continue to read to the end.

My assignment yesterday evening was to deliver some terribly technical photographic instruction to Karen, who wanted to be able to use her Olympus SP590UZ camera more creatively. Since I’m not a “press that button and don’t ask questions” kind of guy, it required a nighttime field trip to demonstrate the techniques.

Our first stop was in the hotel lobby to talk about low light, slow shutter speeds and white balance:

I can’t believe how funky my shoes look. Those shoes are not me!  Karen’s pose seems to imply intense concentration. Today, I’ll present the images which I took. Tomorrow, Karen will be our Guest Shooter with the images from her camera.

Our first street expedience was to talk about camera bracing and the use of slow shutter speeds to get interesting motion blur effects. Here I braced my Canon G11 on top of the rear view mirror of a car and waited for Karen to tell me when vehicles were coming so that I could get some blurred tail lights:

The blurring of the cars changes what would be a pretty ordinary image into something a little more dynamic. This was a one second exposure.

Still on the subject of motion blur and slow shutter speeds, we moved over to the ocean side of the Esplinade along the sea wall to catch some Phantom Walkers, also shot at a slow shutter speed with the camera sitting on a sign post:

People who were sitting relatively still are sharply defined. Those who were moving are blurred. It’s not rocket science.

All modern digital cameras have a variety of “Scene” settings. Some of these are very useful, because you can’t easily set the camera up manually to create the same effect. On this one we used the “Night Snapshot” setting on the G11 to get Karen sitting primly by the swimming pool with the fountain in the background:

For this setting the camera needs to be braced or on a tripod to keep the background from blurring. The total exposure time was probably a half second or more, so the camera must be held absolutely still for that period of time. At the end of the exposure, the flash goes off, hopefully properly exposing the foreground. One can get some very interesting shots with this setting.

On our way back to the apartment, we were startled out of our wits by the sudden appearance of two tiny UFOs, which whizzed past us up Aplin Street heading in the direction of the outback:

They were accompanied by weird “wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa” noises that faded away into the warm tropical night leaving behind an ominous silence. We waited in intense anxiety for a second or two and then went upstairs. “I don’t think they noticed us.” was my cautious comment.

The final lesson of the evening was a nice little panorama of Cairns at night, at least the part that we can see from the balcony:

All in all, a very pleasant experience. Karen seemed quite pleased to see what she could do with her camera. There will be more lessons later.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tonight, at the unusual hour of 21:00 we will be seeing a top-notch oncologist at the office of our surgeon. The oncologist operates out of Brisbane at a hospital which specialises in these disorders. Our hope is that he will tell us that Brisbane is our best logistical option. We have excellent support near Brisbane. Trevor and Karen’s presence here this weekend is a genuine blessing. Karen spent the afternoon yesterday investigating on the web information that Eunie needs, but I simply cannot deal with at the moment.

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