Sunday, 28 March 2010

Macro Monday: Things That make You Go ...Ahhhhhh....

Is it Monday again? Already? How time flies when you are trying to buy a house, get a mortgage sorted out, do 50 million house inspections with electricians, contractors, plumbers, window specialists, eco-consultants etc, all before your deadline of Thursday - well, it can't be any later, can it, since it is the Easter Weekend and we can't possibly leave it until after then, can we?

So, I might be wimping out a wee bit this week, but I have resorted to just finding something cute, something that everyone can ooohhh and ahhhh over and something that I don't have to explain or write endless paragraphs about some obscure lifecycle or association with some peculiar gut protozoan that nobody has heard and few actually want to hear of. So, here you are, a Galapagos sea lion. Isn't he adorable?

OK, so just a couple of things, just in case you ever need this information (and I am sure that one day you will and you will be forever grateful that you bothered reading this far into my post). How can you tell the difference between a sea lion and a seal? Anyone? Come on, I know someone out there knows the answer. Oh, alright then, I will tell you. A sea lion has external ears (you can just see them in this photo), whereas a seal does not and a sea lion has long front flippers and can walk on all four flippers on land, whereas seals kind of hump along and are very clumsy on land. Also, if you happen to have a beach ball handy, you can tell the sea lion since it is the one that can balance said beach ball on the end of its nose.

Now, I really must stop this blogging malarky, since I have a stack of marking a mile high that has to be done. I don't suppose anyone actually cares about this, but there you are. Part of the reason that I haven't done it yet is due to the fact that I spent half of my day weed wacking a blackberry patch the size of a football field just so those bird nerds that I have been hanging out with lately can put up more nets to catch more unsuspecting feathered avians. I don't think that was mentioned when I signed up for the whole bird watching thing. You see, physical labour and I don't get on very well together. Hmmmm, perhaps I shouldn't be buying a house that comes with half an acre of land. But then, I do have Mr. DBM.....

OK, I have to stop rambling now - I have marking to do. Did I mention that?

Perhaps I have time for one more photo - this time we have Californian sea lions at Pier 39 in San Francisco. Everybody.....aaaahhhhhh......

For more Macro Monday, go here.

It has been pointed out to me that this is a Face to be Loved, so I have included it in a Faces meme. Go here for more.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Macro Monday: Happy Birthday!

How could I resist? Today, my adorable little kitties turn eight and this is as good an excuse as any to post their photos, again. I have written many posts about my cats, talking at length about their shortcomings and how useless they are on a practical level - here is the most recent. But today, it is their birthday and so all I shall say is that they light up my life, make me smile when I am feeling blue and, all things considered, make my life and my home a better place to be.

Since this is a Macro Monday posts, here they are, in all their close up cuteness and fluffiness.

Did I ever tell you how hard it is to photograph a black and white cat? Getting the right exposure is nearly impossible. It is like trying to photograph a lump of coal on a fresh bank of brilliant white snow, except that the lump of coal refuses to sit still, even if you do try and tempt it with some cat treats.

For more Macro Monday - go here.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Seeing Things in Black and White

For those of you who have not sussed it out by now, I am currently taking a Photoshop course. This week was black and white conversions. Who knew that there were so many ways to turn a colour photo into a black and white version? And who knew that you can generate an almost infinite variety of different black and white photos, depending on the conversion process used and subsequent editing? Well, I do now, and after a little messing about with Photoshop at 2am this morning (it is amazing what you can get done when you can't sleep), here are just three versions of a photo that I took of the Altiplano of Peru.

I am not entirely sure which one I like the best - it seems to depend on my mood. The top and the bottom photos have both had slight tints added, so they are not 100% monochrome.

Next week - how to make anyone look good. Not sure if I will even go to that class, given the almost complete lack of people in my photos. Let's face it, even when I do include a person, it is usually yours truely and since I am such a shy and retiring person who shuns the limelight, I always blank my face out. Besides, aside from removing very large, obvious and embarrassing zits, I am not a big fan of photoshopping someone's image until they look great, but absolutely nothing like themselves.

Oh, and for anyone who is interested, here is the original image before the B and W conversion.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Macro Monday - Don't Pick the Prickly Pear by the Paw......

It would appear that I am now one year older, but none the wiser. Being 28, again, is getting a little tiresome. Still, one thing that I have learnt is that you should never pick the prickly pear by the paw - just look at how many spines cover the surface of the succulent leaves of the prickly pear cactus. And have a look at the interesting effect of removing all colour from the photo except for the reds. As you can see, I am still messing about with Photoshop.

And since I seem to find it nearly impossible to write a post without some educational content, let's end with a few interesting facts about the prickly pear cactus. This particular one was photographed on one of the Galapagos Islands. On some of the islands, these cacti are fairly small and grow low to the ground. These islands tend to be wetter and more fertile and their resident tortoises have large domed shells which prevent the tortoise from stretching its head up very high - with all the food nice and low down, he doesn't have to. However, on some of the drier islands, the prickly pears grow into large "trees", with strong trunks holding their pad-like leaves well off the ground. On these islands, the resident tortoises have evolved saddle-shaped shells that allow them to stretch their heads up high to reach the lower cactus leaves. On all of the Islands, the prickly pear provides an important food source for many of the animals, not just the tortoises, inlcuding nectar for many of the islands different finch species.

The prickly pear is native to all of the Western hemisphere and is one of the most northern, cold tolerant species of cacti, managing to survive all the way into British Columbia, Canada. All prickly pear cacti belong to the genus Opuntia and they can make a tasty treat for humans as well as animals. To be honest, I might be lying here. I do know that you can eat various parts of the plant, but since I have never tried any part, I cannot say for sure that any part is actually tasty. Still, you can always give it a go. You can eat the fruits or the young leaf pads, but you will probably want to make sure that all of the spines have been removed first! In Mexico, the fruit is commonly called tuna, but I suspect that if I called "tuna" and my cats came running they would not be best pleased if I offered them catus fruit! The Mexicans and some South Americans also make use of the prickly pear to cultivate scale insects, from which red cochineal dye is produced.

And finally, since it seems to me that I cannot learn about anything biological without Mr. Charles Darwins' name popping up, I might as well tell you that he discovered that these cacti have thigmotactic anthers. That is just a fancy way of saying that their anthers (male bits that produce pollen), move when you touch them. Oooh eerr, missus! I think that I will say no more about male bits moving when you touch them.........

For more Macro Monday, go here.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Macro Monday - Painting with Light

So this week I have chosen a photo that, while it looks as though it has been photoshopped quite a lot, it really hasn't. I will admit to removing the stem, since I liked the impact of just the flower head, and I have adjusted the contrast, but otherwise, it is pretty much as is. The distinctive look of the photo has been achieved in the way the photo was taken. Rather than using a harsh flash with a fast shutter speed, I essentially took the photo in the dark. The lighting was then provided by playing a flashlight over the flower head, lighting up the petals, but leaving everything else black. To get enough light into the camera using such a subtle form of lighting, the shutter has to be left open for a relatively long period of time, in this case approximately 15 seconds. Obviously, you are going to need a tripod for this one.

I really do love this effect, and you can do it on a much larger scale, so long as you have a strong enough light source. Here is a tree that I painted with light in the Namibian desert. I got into trouble for this one, since apparently leopards live in amongst the boulders and they love to come out at night and eat idiotic tourists (that would be me) that are sitting around taking photos at sunset.

For more macro Monday, go here.