Sunday, 28 November 2010

Macro Monday: A Very Small Meal

It has been very cold here recently and I suspect that this great blue heron was greatful for his catch, even if it is rather small. Catching fish when your pond is all frozen over must be quite challenging. Perhaps this is a lesson for us all, especially me. Life can most definitely be worse!

So chin up, best foot forward and be grateful for every little morsel that comes your way.

For more Macro Monday, go here.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Macro Monday: Grass

I feel the need to apologise. Now that the excitement over Wayne's Weather Window (apparently a Global Gift Pack is on its way), has started to wane (insert groan here), I am feeling rather deflated and uninspired. Perhaps it is the cold seeping into my bones? Perhaps it is the renovation despair that hangs like a smog over the entire DBM household? Perhaps I just need to pull myself together and crack on with life? Whatever the reason, I feel photographically becalmed. There is no wind in my sails, there are no pixels on my memory card.

So, back to the vault we go, to sunnier times..........perhaps next week will be different?

Ooooh, look what you can do if you start messing around with colour balance.....

I really should go and do some marking now......

For more Macro Monday, go here.

P.S. I have no idea what is in a Global Gift Pack. Millions of dollars? An Aston Martin?  A young, buff handyman that will sort out my house? I suspect more along the lines of a ball point pen and a baseball cap, but I will let you know when it arrives.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Wayne's Weather Window

Now, I am generally not one to toot my own horn, but what the hell, fame, if very, very fleeting, is mine at last!

"Now we go to Steveston - this beautiful sunset was sent to us by Don't Bug Me!"

The photo is of Steveston Harbour in British Columbia and it was shown on the Global News Hour this evening.

Oh, and Wayne didn't actually call me Don't Bug Me!,  he used my real name. But, of course, I can't tell you what that is, can I!?!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

One of Life's Moments

You know the kind of moment that I am talking about, don't you? Where everything, if only very briefly, slides into place, everything clicks, everything is just the way that you want it to be. If only for a moment, a brief, fleeting moment. It can happen anywhere, sometimes when you least expect it. Sitting on a bench looking out over the sea, as the sun shines on your face, a slight breeze lifts a wisp of hair off your face and a bird sings sweetly right behind you. Curling up in front of a toasty warm fire, watching the flames dancing as your cat nuzzles up against you, warm, soft fur, whiskers tickling your nose. You do know what I mean, don't you?

Well, one of those "moments" happened to me while I was in Namibia a couple of years ago. This moment did not come easily. It required the patience of a saint - which obviously I don't have, but luckily I am as stubborn as a mule when I really want something. So, there we all were, the whole safari gaggle, along with 50 million other tourists (OK, so I exaggerate, but the fact that there were a lot of people there is important for my moment, so stay with me), all watching the elephants hog the watering hole. This was pretty good, but it was not my moment. However, my ears were flapping as well as any elephants and I picked up a useful snippet of information. If you want to see the lions, be here at midnight.

Ah, a secret assignation ......... I will be there. Well, who doesn't want to see the lions?

Apparently, no one except me!

OK, so it was dark and surprisingly cold. The few folks that were hanging around when I arrived at about 11:30pm slowly drifted off, but I persevered. So what if my toes were starting to freeze? So what if my bum had gone incredibly numb? So what I was all alone, out there in the wilderness -  I was going to see the lions, no matter what. Midnight came.......and went....... All was very quiet, there was no one there, just me.

But wait, I hear footsteps ....... someone is coming, someone very large........... nope, definitely not a lion. No, what we have here is a rather splendid pachyderm. So, there we were. The Elephant and I. Just the two of us. I am looking at him and he, yes he is definitely looking at me. Right at me. He is lifting his head, bringing his ears forward. He is kind of swaying slightly from side to side, tilting his head back and forth, leaning forward. He is raising his trunk and pointing it right at me. He is checking me out! There we are, staring right at each other, each of us checking the other one out. A chill ran right down my spine and it had nothing to do with the cold. It was the pure thrill of having this elephant all to myself, knowing that he felt just the same way about me. Now that is a moment!

Elephants do tend to hog water holes, and when there are elephants around, most of the other animals hang back from the water hole. Once our little moment had passed and my newfound elephant chum had wandered off with a bit of a snort and a rather large fart, more animals started to make their way down to the water hole. There were a pair of rhinos that spent about an hour just staring at each other, snout to snout, horn to horn. They didn't really do anything, they just huffed and puffed at each other a lot. At times they sounded like a pair of steam locomotives stopped at a station, anticipating pulling away, full steam ahead. At other times, the air escaped from other orifices, and the ensuing sounds would have delighted and amused all small boys for hours! It amused me for quite some time........

Then there were those most gorgeous of creatures - the giraffes. Poised and elegant, graceful and refined, their long, slender legs picking their delicate way down to the edge of the water hole. Reaching the water for a drink is not an easy task when your head is so far above the water. So, the giraffe has to carefully spread its legs before bending its neck, like a young sapling bending in the wind, to reach down to the water's surface.

I wonder if it is easy to swallow with your head down past your toes and a neck longer than a elephant's nose?

Oh yes, I nearly forgot, the lions. They did eventually come, three hours later. See, I told you I can be stubborn when I want. You get to a point when you say to yourself. "Well, I have waited this long, I am not bloody well giving up now!" Well, I do. Perhaps the more sensible people out there don't. Anyhoo, the lions certainly came. The first you knew of their imminent arrival was the low, grumbling, rolling bellows that boomed out over the plains. At first I wondered if a storm was coming, but as the lions got closer, the rumbling coalesced into deep, resonant roars. The water hole cleared pretty quick, let me tell you. Even the two locomotive rhinos cleared out sharpish as soon as they heard the lions. So, just me and the lions then. Not that the lions were taking any notice of me, they had other things to keep them occupied. Like have a drink, and nice roll in the dust and a bit of taking care of business, if you know what I mean (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more!). But you don't need to see "those" photos, do you?

P.S. Just in case you were worried about me, the whole compound was surrounded by a 10ft. fence, so Iwas never in any danger of being a lion's midnight snack.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Macro Monday: Feathers

Well, you are all going to be very happy with me this week. I was going to give you one of my Macro Mysteries and get you to try and guess the animal. But then I thought, why bother? Everyone will know that it is a bird and then nearly everyone will be stumped - except of course Susannah over at Wanderin' Weeta, she will know what it is, since she just did a post on them.

So, instead, here is the macro photo:

And here is the elegant and graceful bird to which these feathers belong:

They are sandhill cranes. I was so excited when I first saw them, thinking that they must be some rare, exotic bird that had somehow got lost and ended up on the cold, damp coast of British Columbia. But no, these long-legged beauties are supposed to be here. In fact, there are always here. Still, that does not change the fact that they are the most striking of birds, wearing their plumage like a haughty couture model, strutting her stuff down a runway in Milan.

These birds may seem rather imposing and arrogant, but when all is said and done, they are actually the most endearing of birds. They pair for life, migrating together back and forth, year in, year out, between overwintering grounds in the north and summer breeding habitats further south. They dance for each other and they dance and run with their offspring, teaching them how to fly. They will also let you get very close, which is always good when you are looking for a macro shot.......

 Until they decide that it is time to move on.......

For more Macro Monday, go here.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

It Makes Me Want to Cry..........

Let's get this straight right from the beginning - I am not talking about my renovations. Yes, they do make me want to cry, but the less said about them, the better.

What we are talking about here is friendship and its complete breakdown into a vicious rivalry in a matter of seconds.

We are talking about two bezzie mates, two BFFs, one minute strutting down the road, shoulder to shoulder, casting their eyes over their little corner of the world, their domain. The next minute they are fighting tooth and claw, tearing flesh from those shoulders that were rubbing together in friendship just minutes earlier. Blood dripping from raw, open wounds, one friend dismissing the other with little more than a disdainful look and the flick of a tail.

Ah yes, we are not talking men here, we are talking lions. And what ripped this friendship to shreds, literally? Yep, a female - a beguiling lioness that passed them by, sashaying hips, dusky pheromones permeating the air, drifting seductively up the sensitive nostrils of those two mighty lions.

So, here is how it all went down:

First glimpse of our handsome twosome occurs - did I see something in the brush? Did something move in there? Is that an eye peering out, staring right at me?

STOP the CAR!!!!!

And out of the bush steps one magnificent beast - our first lion of Etosha National Park in Namibia, Southern Africa. It is a splendid male, amber-eyed, huge shaggy mane, muscled, lithe and limber. His honeyed coloured body just flows through the undergrowth and he steps silently on to the dusty road in front of us. He turns, gives us a cursory glance and starts to wander slowly down the road - his road, his speed.

Seconds later, another male slinks on to the path next to him. The lads are out and about, looking for trouble, looking for laughs. One of them decides that it might be fun to attack the rather small vehicle that has stopped in front of them. He lunges at the back of the car, huge forelimbs encircling the vehicle, enveloping nearly half of the car in a playful hug. The occupants were hanging out of the windows, laughing, shouting "Here kitty, kitty!" The car began to shake beneath the lions behemoth paws and I have never seen faces go so white so quickly, or windows wound up so fast. As the lion released his embrace and returned to the side of his best mate, you could almost here them laughing, congratulating each other on scaring the insignificant, weak and feeble humans inside their little tin boxes.

They carry on down the road, side by side, shoulder to shoulder.

One sees a huge steaming pile of elephant dung in the middle of the road. He stops, stretches, opens his mouth in a huge yawn and then has a pleasant, relaxing roll in the enormous pile of poo. Meanwhile, his buddy is having a good scratch up against an old, gnarled, half dead tree on the side of the road.

All is good, all is well with the world.

But then everything changes. Both lions lift their massive shaggy heads and their noses sample the air. Their muscles tense, their tails start to swish vigorously back and forth. They gaze intently into the bush - everything goes silent, everything holds its breath......

Here she comes - with a swing of her hips, a lick of her lips........... and all hell breaks loose.

Dust billows out from beneath the writhing, twisting and rolling bodies of these two lion kings. Teeth clash, claws rip and the air is filled with the deep, resonating roars of these two proud and driven rivals.

The lioness looks on dispassionately, perhaps appearing a little bored with the whole thing. She has seen it all before and patiently waits for the victor to claim his spoils.

A few minutes later, and all is quiet once more. There can be only one King. The winner claims his prize, while the loser retires to the shade of a struggling, scraggy bush to lick his bleeding wounds.

Nature - red in tooth and claw.

It just makes me want to cry........

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Behind the Scenes - The Dripping tap

I wasn't going to do this, you know. I quite like getting all of those comments about how wonderful my photos of dripping taps are. I love the feeling of knowing how to do something that others don't. I delight in the praise. I  bask in the glory of being a photography goddess.

So, why would I want to tell you how I did it and spoil the illusion of my great skill and photography prowess? Do I really want to let you in on the secret that it is really very simple and actually requires no great skill or expensive photographic equipment?

Oh, what the hell, you did all ask so nicely.

So, here is what you need:

A camera with a flash - the built-in kind works just fine (that is all I have, after all).
A tripod

There, that is it for the actual taking of the photo. I told you it was simple, didn't I? No strobes, no expensive lighting systems, no coloured lights or dancing girls. The camera doesn't have to be expensive either, and you don't need a very fast camera. In fact, the opposite is true - this shot is actually taken at a relatively slow shutter speed.

My camera is a Nikon D80, and I used the lens that it came with - 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 i.e. a cheap lens, nothing special.

OK, so here is what I did:

Set up my camera on the tripod in the bathroom - you need the tripod since you are using a slow shutter speed.
Selected the following settings:
  • Aperture - 5.6 (keep it wide open to blur the background)
  • Shutter speed - 1/8th second (you want it slow to catch the movement of the drop)
  • Flash up and set for rear curtain sync.
  • Remember your white balance - set to flash.
The flash set up is the crucial thing. When you use a flash with a longer exposure, you can set the flash to fire as soon as the shutter opens (this is the standard mode) or you can set the flash to fire at the end of the exposure. By setting it to fire at the end of the exposure, the first part of the exposure blurs and then you freeze the final part with the flash. That is how you can get a motion blur but still a nice sharp image.

Now, sit, point and shoot. And shoot. And shoot. This is the most frustrating part and will probably drive you as nuts as a dripping tap does in the middle of the night when you can't sleep. You will end up with a lot of photos of just the tap. But, once in a while, you will catch the drop. Unfortunately, you can't use the continuous shoot mode, because your flash won't recycle quickly enough.

Oh, yes, you might want to clean your tap first, otherwise everyone that sees your photo will know that you are a bit of a household slut.

So, you now have your photo. Here is mine, SOOC:

As you can see, I am a household slut. Ooops.

Now, you have to go to your photo editing software. I use Photoshop CS3, and that is all I have and all I know how to use. So I shall show you what I did with this software. You will have to modify for whatever you use. Here we go:

  • Crop image and convert to black and white.
  • Adjust contrast using contrast tool or curves.

  • Sharpen image with unsharp mask.
  • Add a filter - I chose the deep blue, density 100%
  • Adjust contrast, brightness etc as desired.

There you go. Not so difficult was it?

If you want to just colour the water drop, you will have to add the photo filter to its own layer and then remove the colour from where you don't want it. I used the cyan photo filter for my drop.

And so the illusion is shattered and I will have to return to being a photography mere mortal. Oh well, it was great while it lasted........

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Macro Monday: Drip

Make it stop! Somebody, please make it stop!!!

For more Macro Monday, go here.

Apparently many of you are wondering about how I took these  photos and have asked for an explanation.
If I have some time tomorrow, I shall do a little tutorial on how to shoot dripping taps - but just a word of warning - the taking of the photograph will probably drive you as insane as the dripping tap does!