Recently in Photography Category
Remember those old electrical insulators? This one was inexplicably shattered...but only on the inside. You may know some people like that.
The bloom on this flower reminds me of popcorn...deliciously buttered popcorn. With tentacles.
There went the neighborhood.
This golfball had seen better days, but it's gotten a new life on this page as...well, you can fill in the blank.
I see a sleeping fox. What do you see?
Heat sink from a computer circuit board
Motherboard from a Mac G4
HaloRig: Video Stabilizer
Flyboard: Your next James Bondian Sporting Device
(Update - the next morning: Good thing I emptied it yesterday; there was another 3" in the gauge.)
A Mexican Lime on our back porch
A Vitex bloom, slightly past its prime
The armadillo that stands vigil over our side yard
The delicate beauty of a desert willow flower
A burro, yearning to fly
A Mexican Elder towers over a stoic chaparral
Viewed from 7,200 feet
This is the obligatory view of the snow-enhanced pond. The ducks were not amused.
Also not amused was our palm tree.
An interesting predicament: snow-filled traffic lights.
This is a clumsy 360° panorama taken from the hill just north of our neighborhood. Click for a bigger view. There's software that will stitch these pictures together much better than I did by hand, but I was too lazy to look for it. Oh, by the way, the big photo is 3,300 pixels wide.
- Right off the bat, you need to determine the version of firmware your camera uses. This is critical to ensuring that you install the proper version of CHDK. For me, the perfect solution was ACID - the Automatic Camera Identifier and Downloader. This free program, available for OSX, Windows, and Ubuntu Linux, is an all-in-one firmware identifier and CHDK downloader program. Once you download and install ACID, you can discover your firmware version simply by dragging a photo from your camera's SD card into the ACID program's window. The program not only identifies the firmware, it provides a link for downloading the proper CHDK for your camera.
- You need to have a properly formatted SD card onto which the CHDK can be installed. I found another free program called SDMInst that performed that task for me with just a few click. Note that this program works only with OSX, but I'm sure there are other similar apps for Windows.
- After the CHDK is installed, the SD card must be locked (you'll still be able to take photos); I think this prevents the programs from being overwritten by the camera's firmware, but that's just a guess. Once this is done and the card is re-inserted into the camera, you can confirm that installation was successful by the appearance of a new boot-up screen that appears briefly on your camera's LCD screen. Here's what mine looks like:
Now that I've got it, what do I do with it?
Lots of icons and control bars. Fortunately, the application's tooltip function works well, providing a summary in the yellow box of the purpose of each icon and option as you move your cursor over each of them.
Photoshop CS5 - HDR Toning
Photoshop CS5 - Merge to HDR Pro
HDRFactory - "AKVIS Default"
But what really caught my eye was the inclusion of a point-and-shoot camera, Canon's PowerShot S95. Wired's editors raved about the little camera's features and especially its fast and long-zoom lens. I was excited to see it on the list because I got one for Christmas*, courtesy of My Lovely Bride.
I'm still learning how to use the camera, but first impressions are that it's a very serviceable replacement for an entry-level SLR, and for many people may be the only camera they need.
Canon has packed an amazing array of features into the pocket-sized device: 10 megapixel stills, 720p HD video, 28-105mm (equivalent) zoom lens, high speed image processor, and image stabilization. It has the ability to capture images in RAW format as well as JPG+RAW, and provides multi-aspect image mode options. The camera also accommodates Canon's HF-DC1 external flash for more control over flash photography (the link is to Canon's site, but you can get it for $100 via Amazon.com).
The S95 allows full manual control of shooting modes, but it also has a myriad of preprogrammed modes and special effects, including the in-camera ability to replace colors in a scene, to lighten or darken skin tone, to create HDR photos, and to apply a tilt-shift effect to the image. It can even snap a photo in self-timer mode when someone in the scene winks at the camera. (Is there a big demand for that?)
One of the minor miracles of the camera is how quickly it's ready to shoot when you turn it on. I tried to measure the interval between pressing the "on" button and completion of the ready mode, but it was only about one second.
If you're looking for a carry-everywhere camera that provides the flexibility of an SLR, the ease of a point-and-shoot, throws in HD video, and is less than $400, I can't imagine a better alternative than the S95.
*Funny story about this. I opened the gift and apparently had a puzzled look, because Debbie said, "well, you put it on your wish list!" I didn't remember doing that, and she claimed that I had blogged about it just a few months earlier. I knew my memory was spotty, but didn't realize it was that bad. A day or so later she said she went back on the Gazette and found the post where I mentioned I'd like to have one...and it was from October, 2009 (and just a brief mention in a Random Thursday post at that). I felt a bit better.
Click on the small images for bigger versions, and to go through them slideshow-style.
Hard to believe, huh? Yeah, that's what I thought until I spotted an oddly constructed insect on our crape myrtle at lunch today. Click on the small photos to see the gory details.
I'm sure there's a cautionary tale here, somewhere, but I'm trying really hard not to think about it.
I took a photo of them a year or two back, when we were in the middle of an extreme drought. I just stumbled across the image and liked the way the light of the setting sun added some contrast to the picture. I applied a little Photoshopping (OK, more than a little), and voila!
According to this website, this is a Scarlet Darter Dragonfly (Crocothemis erythraea). Whatever the name, it's a gorgeous specimen.
This is a vastly different kind of "stick" compared to the one I photographed last year. This one is Mike Tyson, while that one is Michael Cera.
Ours was pretty good.
This and a few other new images will be up at the Gallery pretty soon.
Can you make out that mass of junk in the middle of the palm tree (and we're using the word "tree" quite loosely here; it's more of a palm bush or palm shrub). It's a dove's nest, perched precariously a full three feet above the ground.
We discovered it last weekend, and noticed it only when the nesting dove exploded from the tree as we walked by. Closer inspection revealed this (it's been a while...forever, in fact, since I've been able to photograph down into a nest without a ladder):
The mother is quite skittish, and with good reason. She didn't exactly pick an obscure spot for the young 'uns. But I was able to point a telephoto lens around the corner and catch her hard at work:
As soon as she spotted me, she burst from the nest and took up residence on the neighbor's roof, keeping an eye on me:
Dove as a species don't strike me as very intelligent; they're the avian counterpart to sheep. However, this choice of location for a nest isn't as dumb as it might seem. Sure, it's close to the ground, but it's also protected by a seven foot wall and locked gates. There's danger from weather, but that's a given regardless of location, but, otherwise, unless another marauding bird makes an appearance, this may be a good place to raise a family. We'd like to think of our neighborhood in those terms, anyway.
Our neighborhood didn't sustain any damage from the rain or the hail, other than leaves knocked off various shrubs and trees. The drainage system out here performed admirably, unlike in other parts of Midland. And Debbie and I actually missed most of the excitement as we were enjoying Iron Man 2 while the heaviest part of the storm moved across the city (although it was sometimes hard to distinguish movie sound effects from Mother Nature's).
Here's a photo of our neighborhood's south pond. The water level is about 4' higher than normal. If you can't quite make out the sign, it says "No Swimming or Wading," and it's normally on dry ground. That junk floating in the water is mulch that washed down from the bank.
Here's another view showing the sidewalk that normally leads to the dock.
Despite the heavy rains, we still managed to have a spectacular sunset.
The thunderhead in the distance was moving away from us. We were more than happy to share it with someone else.
Yeah, I know; it looks like the Loch Ness monster but it's actually a wild turkey. I've never seen one around Midland. I apologize for the lack of detail in the photos but this bird was quite skittish and my camera was maxed out. Anyone else ever seen a wild turkey this close to the Midland city limits?
Another cool thing. When I got out of the car to take the second photo, I glanced down and spotted this wildflower:
It has a vague resemblance to a bluebonnet, but the color is amazing. I was as impressed with the flower as I was with the bird.
I took a 30-minute stroll yesterday morning, and within a three-block area found sixteen different varieties of wildflowers. OK, most of them are technically flowering weeds, but, you know, potato/potahto.
Some of these may at first glance appear to be duplicates, but if you look closely, you'll see that they're different varieties. And please don't ask me to identify them; the only ones I can name are the bluebonnet, the chocolate daisy, and the purple nightshade.
Click on the photo for a bigger version.
Update: I spent some time browsing various wildflower-related websites and I *think* I've identified most of the flowers. Feel free to correct me or to provide identities for the three species I couldn't match to anything in my "research."
Top row (l-r): Blue curls, Huisache daisy, Purple nightshade, Coreopsis
2nd row (l-r): Limestone gaura, Chocolate daisy, Unknown, Rabbit tobacco
3rd row (l-r): Blackfoot daisy, Gray vervain, Paper daisy, Unknown
4th row (l-r): Bluebonnet, Firewheel, Unknown, Dahlberg daisy
If the preceding image is too, um, intense for you, perhaps one that has flowers in it will be more to your liking. (The mouse was non-committal.)
Here's a bigger version of the preceding image.
Here's a bigger version of the preceding image.
To get a sense of the scale, those are my fingers holding the branch.
A perfectly valid argument can be made that some of these applications are designed to address the shortcomings of the iPhone's camera not by improving image quality but by actually playing up those shortcomings. In other words, if your camera is going to take crappy pictures anyway, you might as well make them creative crappy pictures. (The term "hipster" comes to mind, for some reason.)
I decline to participate in the debate, because I'm in it for the fun. And some of the camera apps jack up the fun quotient by a considerable amount. Take these two, for example.
Hipstamatic (ooh...another hipster reference!) is designed to make your iPhone's digital photos look analog. I started to say "retro-analog" but that would have been redundant, not to mention dumb. The interface is great; it overlays your iPhone screen with the image of an actual analog camera, and you can change lenses, flashes, film type, and tweak various settings. The default installation gives you more than 200 combinations to fiddle with, and you can add settings bundles via in-app purchases. Hipstamatic is $1.99. Here's a photo I took last night (take note of my new two-monitor layout!); the white border was added automatically by the app:
Spica Super Monochrome is sort of a one-trick pony, converting your camera into a black-and-white model. But if you like that high-contrast, noisy B&W effect, this 99-cent app is the easiest way to achieve it. Be forewarned, though; there aren't any settings...you'll take what it gives you and like it or not. The only options you have are to upload the photo to Twitter or to change the size of the image. Here's a sample, starring my booted foot:
They're actually quite graceful, floating silently and effortlessly in the stiff breezes that persisted until nightfall. The only unsettling thing about them being directly overhead was...well, I'll leave it to your imagination.
The voices you hear at the end of the video recounting an encounter of a motorcycle with a buzzard are those of my brother and his wife.
The debate is between purists who tend to believe that the camera should be used to capture newsworthy scenes without any additional manipulations, and those who feel that post-processing of news photos is a legitimate journalistic technique that will help the observer better understand the implications of the scene in question.
This is really just an extension of the ongoing debate over whether journalists should be bringing agendas into their reportage, and if you believe that there's no place for this, then you'll side with the purists. And that's the end of the spectrum I tend to gravitate toward, but not unequivocally.
The problem with photojournalism is that it can never absolutely reflect reality (reality being defined [by me] as what could be observed by the average human being if he was present at the event being recorded). Even the most seemingly straightforward photo captures an instant in time, inevitably breaking the overall context of the scene; life isn't a series of discrete events, it's a continuous ever-changing stream.
In addition, the vast majority of photographs involve cropping the scene - removing portions from the photograph that the naked eye of the human observer would otherwise perceive. Again, this inevitable cropping removes context. It's perhaps not significant, but we don't know, do we, because we're relying on what the photographer chose to show us.
The arguments of the purists are a slippery slope. Should the photojournalist completely dispense with a shortened depth of field? The human eye certainly doesn't see things that way. What about sharpening or improving contrast or color saturation? Are black-and-white photographs taboo?
I understand the point the purists are trying to make: techniques that make a photograph communicate a message that's different than the actual scene hurt the credibility of photojournalism. But figuring out where to draw the line is something that's hard to bring into focus (no pun intended).
One of my favorite commercial applications of the technique is the following Allstate Insurance TV ad:
O'Hare says that he likes "making large scenes small," and The Sandpit is an amazing example of how to do that.
Viewed from a certain angle, you can see that there's not much to this bird, despite his impressive size while he's wading.
You can watch the embedded version below, but if you have a fast internet connection and computer, I highly recommend watching the HD version in full-screen mode. I have no idea how much of it is real, and how much is computer-generated (read some of the almost 1300 comments on the Vimeo page linked above and you'll see that I'm not alone), but it doesn't matter. It easily qualifies as a digital masterpiece regardless of how it was made.
Of course, I couldn't resist taking the camera for a stroll around the ponds to see if there were any new perspectives to be gained. Unfortunately, most of my pictures turned out to look like I took them in a fog. Go figure. But the birds were more cooperative than usual, as it was too cold to be bothered, and I was able to get a close-up of what I think is a Pyrrhuloxia, all puffed up trying to stay warm:
This may just be one of my all time favorite images, and it's derived from the most mundane of settings.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, is a photo of a great egret* equivalent to folding a thousand pieces of paper? I obviously can't say for sure, but this fellow was a great photo subject on the first day of the new year, and if he wants to be the bearer of good luck, we'll take all he can carry.
*I think this is a great egret; I'm open to correction from any true birders out there. Whatever he (she?) is, he's a frequent visitor to our ponds during the winter. The ducks seem a bit indignant at his presence. I suspect the fish have somewhat stronger feelings, but I could be anthropomorphizing.
I don't remember how I came across this article, but I've kept it open in a browser tab for several days even though I hadn't taken the time to look at it in detail until this morning. I hadn't realized that the photographer had added an audio commentary to each photo - a brief glimpse into the process, the situation, or most interestingly, the character of the subject of each picture.
Those comments are what elevate this presentation over the normal portfolio (setting aside the fact that there perhaps has never before been such a compilation of political power by one person at one time). The photographer is careful and diplomatic with his observations, but not to the point of banality (OK, there are some banal comments, but they're excusable). And, occasionally, his remarks tell more than the photos themselves. Be sure to listen to the commentary accompanying the image of Robert Mugabe, president/dictator of Zimbabwe.
I'm not among those skeptics. My definition of art may be looser than others, but I think the human creativity can manifest itself in infinite variety, and it's the result that counts, not the process. As the NPR article points out, Rockwell was in total control of every detail of the process - selecting the subject matter and models (most of whom were fellow residents of his hometown of Stockbridge, MA), working with a hand-picked stable of photographers, directing the photo shoots, and, finally, transforming the results of those photos to a medium of paint. In itself, the process is interesting, but it's the result that defines his work as art: his work stimulates the imagination and memory, and has an uncanny way of creating an attitude of peace, joy, and/or amusement in the viewer.
Further, if you take the time to compare the details of the original photo with the final artwork, you'll see that Rockwell's technique wasn't really "photorealistic." Take a look at the side-by-side comparisons of some of his paintings and the photos he used as starting points, and it will be clear that Rockwell made conscious decisions about details, omitting or altering those that didn't contribute to what he was trying to achieve with each scene. Some of those edits were so extensive that the use of the term "tracing" is inaccurate and unfair.
Whether or not you consider Norman Rockwell to be a true artist, his contribution to the tapestry of American culture is undeniable. And I suspect he'd be amused by discussions such as this.
Ron Shick's book "Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera" explores in detail the artist's working methods. I haven't read it, but it sounds quite interesting.
That's the definition given on the Tilt-Shift Photography website. You can view tens of thousands of examples on the Flickr group dedicated to the technique. Here's my own initial attempt:
OK, so it's not such a great example, but considering that I took it with my iPhone, and touched up the original photo in about 30 seconds using TiltShift Generator for iPhone*, I think it ended up being an eye-catching image.
According to Wikipedia, tilt/shift lenses were originally developed for perspective control in architectural photography, but the results can now be roughly duplicated with software. In addition, the term "tilt shift" has been appropriated - and, perhaps, misappropriated - to apply to photos containing areas of selective focus. In this regard, the "Snow Bunny" photo I posted yesterday qualifies as tilt shift because I used Photoshop to selectively sharpen some areas of the image while blurring others (although to be fair to my camera, I only "enhanced" the natural depth of field in the original photo).
This technique won't appeal to everyone, but I like the effect of combining selective focus with oversaturated colors to give a sort of garish, retro look to otherwise mundane scenes. I want to experiment further with tilt shift; please be patient.
*Tilt-shift effects are relatively easy to achieve in Photoshop and similar desktop image editing applications, but you really need a dedicated app to replicate the technique on your iPhone.
Welcome to the wacky world of Camera Toss Photography, a sure sign that some people have too much time on their hands. Wired has a wiki devoted to the subject, based on instructions provided by this blog devoted to the subject, which in turn links to this Flickr group that contains over 6,000 photos derived from the subject technique.
Sure, some of these photos are undeniably cool, but many of them could be replicated with the right software. And, frankly, I'd rather toss a copy of Photoshop in the air than my beloved Digital Rebel XT.
At least Wired brings a realistic perspective to the, um, technique, advising that this be tried around Christmas so that you can always ask for a new camera if you execute a fatal fumble.
Now, I might change my mind about this if someone will post a photo taken via their tossed Hasselblad H3DII, which retails for just under 31 large. I'm not holding my breath (even as I clutch my camera).
This is one.
Andrew Zuckerman is a professional photographer, and his new book has the simple and completely descriptive title of Bird. It consists of a series of gorgeous photos of birds, both exotic and mundane. What sets his work apart from other "nature photographers" is his elimination of any context for the subject; the photo consists of an image of the bird against a pure white background. This makes for a striking image, and allows the eye to focus completely on the details of each specimen.
The website for Bird goes one step further by providing an audio recording of each bird's call. This added dimension allows the visitor to create his or her own context, albeit an incomplete one, although that depends on the extent of one's imagination.
I'm not a fan of websites built with Flash, but this is probably a perfect example of when the exception is entirely justified.
Bird is available via Amazon.com [link], and if you find it appealing, you may also be interested in Zuckerman's previous publications that use similar techniques, Creature [link] and Wisdom [link].
In the second photo, you can easily see the pockmarks the bird was leaving in the tree bark.
Technical photo details: Canon Digital Rebel XT, Canon 80-200 zoom lens, manual focus, ISO 100
I should try manual focus more often. ;-)
(Who am I kidding? This was pure luck.)
My reverie was interrupted by the sound of frantic flapping as the birds exploded away from their metal perch and I looked up, wondering what had caused their alarm. Just then, a young hawk arrived from the east, swooping down and alighting where the doves had previously stood. I mentally kicked myself for once again forgetting to bring the camera, but he was perfectly content to sit and watch the other birds flying quickly past, studiously avoiding him. I crept back inside, grabbed the Canon, returned to my chair and snapped a dozen or so photos before he flew across the vacant lot and perched in a tree by the north pond.
I spotted this unknown variety of shield or stink bug on one of the red-tipped photinia in our front flowerbed. I browsed in vain through more than 500 photos via Google's image search without finding a match for this particular coloration and pattern, but I suspect there are thousands of variations. Anyway, I don't recall ever seeing one quite like this.
He's wet because she sprayed him with a hose before she realized he wasn't a grasshopper. I think he's a little miffed, if the expression on his face is any indication.
It's also more than a little creepy the way he follows your movements with his head and eyes.
- Now, about that cover... is a post from the author of the book by the same name, and it deals with how the quite striking cover of his book came to be. The photo shown on the front cover depicts a book that has been soaked in water and the pages arranged into a striking organic shape. This technique is the brainchild of Houston-based photographer Cara Barer, who is quick to point out that no valuable books are harmed in the making of her pictures.
I feel compelled to note that my wife has at times created this effect by nodding off in the bathtub with book in hand.
- And speaking of bending paper to your will, check out these amazing origami creations by Won Park. Given the value of the dollar lately, this is as good a use as any for a bill.
- I'm a sucker for panoramic photography, because I can't figure out how to do it myself. Here's a great example, taken at Shoshone Point in the Grand Canyon National Park. If you have a fast internet connection and faster computer, click the "full screen" link to get the full vertigo-inducing effect.
- And, last but not least, I was happy to see that Texas Governor Rick Perry garnered Bicycling Magazine's "Wheelsucker of the Month" award for his veto of the Safe Passing bill at the end of the last legislative session. Perry claims to be a cyclist, and, indeed, recently injured himself during a ride, so you'd think he'd have more empathy. But he's a politician first and foremost, and thus can't be counted on to do the right thing. Anyway, BikeTexas, the state's cycling advocacy group, has an online petition urging passage of the bill (while simultaneously expressing displeasure at the veto). If you're a Texas cyclist, pedestrian, farm equipment operator, or "concerned motorist" (which should pretty much encompass all of us), please consider dropping by to sign the petition. It may not accomplish anything more than making me feel better, but this is, after all, all about me.
The more perceptive among you may also notice a large button on the right side of this page that links to the petition, in case you weren't able to read this far.
Click on the first photo to see a larger and uncropped version.
Here's the snake in its pre-smushed condition.
But, that's actually not the most interesting part of our walk. While we weren't doing battle with venomous serpents, we were watching a beautiful thunderstorm developing over Stanton and Big Spring, 20-40 miles east of us. I took a series of photos of the storm cloud.
The last three photos were obviously taken after sunset as I attempted to capture some images of lightning. I set my camera to ISO 1600 (the maximum for my Canon Digital Rebel XT), turned on the motor drive, and took almost 100 photos over the course of a minute or two. These three were the best of the batch. The first two photos of lightning were actually successive frames, taken less than a second apart. The third one was taken 10 seconds later.
For a full-sized version of this photo, click here.
It's a green anole, a lizard that is found throughout the warmer climes of the US, but only infrequently spotted in our neck of the woods. They eat spiders, cockroaches and crickets, so they're quite welcome in our neighborhood.
Here are a couple more photos:
We're amazed at how the frogs are proliferating in the recirculating stream that flows into the south pond. I'm pretty sure that they're leopard frogs (the bullfrogs seem to prefer the still water of the pond itself).
There's also a lone duck who apparently decided he/she has a sweeter deal this summer here than somewhere up north.
We also hiked around the lake, and I found several interesting subjects to photograph. Here are a couple of new entries to the Gallery, both with "head" themes. The one on the left is called "Dead Head" while the other one is "Devil Head." Yes, I'm tired and out of ideas. So sue me. (No, don't, really.)
I've written before about the flock of wild turkeys that have taken up residence in my old neighborhood in Fort Stockton. For whatever reasons, the size of the group has dwindled from the upper teens to just three, a gobbler (male) and two hens.
The male has been known to exhibit aggressive behaviors towards people, chasing them back into their houses, something that sounds amusing until it happens to you. The city's Animal Services department seems unwilling or unable to do anything about it; admittedly, it's not a life-threatening situation.
Last Saturday (March 14th), having been forewarned by my mother, I took my video camera into the streets in search of the wily Meleagris gallopavo, and found them only a half block from our front porch. Here are a few minutes of video from that encounter.
The gobbler turned out to be all bluff, and not much of that. I could not induce him to come towards me, much less attack, and shortly after I turned off the camera, he flew up onto a roof to join his hens, away from our prying eyes.
One interesting behavioral note: If you listen closely, you can hear the scrape of his wingtips on the street. I wonder if that's an intentional warning signal. I noticed that he did that same thing each time he puffed up his plumage, but the sound effects were less effective when he was in the grass.
Killdeer are exceedingly common throughout the US, and they're even regularly observed around bodies of water in our arid part of the state. Still, I haven't had the opportunity to observe them up close until a family took up residence around the stream and pond located in our new neighborhood.
I shot the following video this morning. It was unusually cold for this time of year - temps in the upper 30s - and the killdeer chicks were seeking warmth under mama's wings. The only problem is that there were too many of them and too little of her to go around. You'll also see a short clip of the "distraction behavior" killdeer use to draw predators away from their eggs or young.
I apologize for the shaky video, as I am too cheap to buy a camera with image stabilization, too unskilled to hold a zoomed-in shot steady, and too disorganized to remember to grab a tripod.
Shutter: 1/1000 sec; F-stop 9.0; Aperture: 6.3;
ISO Equiv. 400; Focal length: 55mm; uncropped image: 8mpxl;
Camera: Canon Digital Rebel XT
Here are some lessons I learned from this morning's ride:
- Never assume that a camera on a bicycle is wasted dead weight;
- Don't underestimate the patience of a pair of burrowing owls perched on telephone lines;
- Likewise, the importance of a good lens and a bunch of megapixels cannot be overstated;
And last but not least...
- Skill counts for a lot in photography, but so does blind luck.