After last week’s post about a newcomer bird in the garden, it occured to me it might be nice to show you some of my regulars. So here they are, in no particular order.
Gee, and that’s just a handful. I’ll show you some more another time.
After last week’s post about a newcomer bird in the garden, it occured to me it might be nice to show you some of my regulars. So here they are, in no particular order.
Gee, and that’s just a handful. I’ll show you some more another time.
Yes, I know I’m not finished with Europe yet. I’ll get back to it soon. But I’m just back from a week in Perth, catching up with old, old friends and a brief visit with relos, and I want to share a few posts about that, first. For a start it was much better fun, and the weather was great.
Perth really is my “home town”. I wasn’t born there but I spent much of my life there – all my education, all my formative years. I was supposed to go back for a fiftieth high school reunion three weeks ago, but I was ill, so I couldn’t make the trip. But a few weeks to recuperate from my European sore throat and sniffle saw me back to my sparkling best. Although I missed the reunion, I got to catch up with the most important people who would have been there – friends from my primary school days – one I hadn’t seen for close on fifty years, and her sister, who was my best friend at primary school. I stayed with my BFF and her family and we went off to places I’d remembered to see the changes in the twenty years since I moved Over East. I’ll talk about that in later posts.
For now I want to share the marvellous photos I took of outback Australia as the plane flew from Perth to Brisbane. They’re not bad, but they ought to be much better. Sometimes we older ladies can be a bit… um… stupid. I was playing Solitaire on my tablet, trying very hard to avoid striking up a conversation with the woman sitting next to me. Yeah, I know. But I’m an introvert and chatting with strangers doesn’t come easily. This woman and her husband were not, I guessed, frequent air travellers. She’d brought up the flight info screen that show you where you are, air speed, height, outside temperature etc, and she spent a lot of time reading these details out to her husband who (of course) had a similar screen.
“Ooooh look, Darl. We’re nearly at Kalgoorlie.”
“That must be South Australia now. About a third of the way.”
“Gosh, minus fifty outside.”
You get the idea. Anyway, I glanced out the window and saw a nice pattern outside, so I activated the tablet’s camera, pressed the device up to the window and took a photo. I did that several times, often requiring a fair bit of contortion in the seat so as not to lean on the woman beside me. Bear in mind that I had my camera bag, containing my Canon 70D with 18-200mm zoom lens, set up to take photos in raw format, on the floor at my feet. It remained there for the entire flight.
You may kick me now.
So… here are the photos. I suppose they’re not too bad.
I guess everybody knows how powerful the world’s best known photo editing program is. You can fool a lot of the people with images manipulated in PS, as many a person on Facebook can attest. Apart from fooling people, Photoshop can be used to create stunning digital masterpieces, putting together layer upon layer of images and effects. The other half of that, though, is it’s not the easiest piece of software to use. There are so many things you can do with it that the sheer complexity can thwart the beginner.
I’ve bought myself an online course to learn how to use this beast, and though it’s early days, I’ve discovered a few things, made some pretty pictures. That photo up the top is a (pretty nice, if I say so myself) photo of a pelican landing on the water. Not long ago a friend sent me a link to the best bird photos in the world 2017. And stunning they certainly are. Everybody loved the photo of the pelican landing on the water at dawn (or dusk), but I’ll admit to wondering if a little bit of Photoshop had been added to the mix. I’m a tiaro at Photoshop magic, but I thought I’d have some fun and see what I could do with the picture up there.
And here it is. I cut out the pelican and the trail of water from the original picture. Then I painted a graduated orange background and pasted the pelican onto it. That done, I copied the pelican image, then turned it over and foreshortened it a little to create the reflection. To make it look less like a mirror image, I added some distortion with a ‘liquefy’ filter which I found as a plug-in on the web. It’s not a photo anymore, it’s a piece of digital art, but I like it.Apart from anything else, it adds drama to the picture, and highlights the bird.
But then I had a bit more of a think. A bird landing like that creates ripples. And as it happens, I had a picture of ripples .
I inverted the colours to make it orange-based, then added the image as a layer, where I fiddled about with the perspective and how it would fit. And this is my finished masterpiece.
One of the things about photography is that you have to work with the limitations of the camera. It’s a piece of kit, with limited capabilities, unlike the human eye, which has a powerful editing system of its own. We don’t JUST see with our eyes. If you’re walking along a beach and a bird flies up, you can still see the detail of the beach because your brain fills in the gaps based on the information it collected before the bird appeared. So you can see both aspects of the scene, even though you might be concentrating on the flying bird. The camera can’t. The bird’s in focus. in movement, so what’s behind it is fuzzy.
In Photoshop you can get around that by combining two images, one of the scene, the other of the flying bird.
Here’s a photo of a Brahmini kite in flight. He’s just taken off from the tidal flats. Nice picture of the bird, pretty ordinary one of the background. Now here’s a nice background. A bit boring, except for the clouds.
Put them together, and we see what our eye/brain would see.
Apart from anything else, fooling around with photos is a lot of fun.
Here’s another one I prepared earlier. Learning more about realistic shadows, too.
I lived close to Melbourne for ten years of my life, and although it isn’t my very favouritist place in the world as far as cities go, I quite like it (shhh don’t tell anyone) . Before we left for warmer climes in 2007 I took a few photos which I’d like to share with you. Some of them are just pretty, others illustrate that Melbourne doesn’t take itself too seriously all of the time. In fact, the city fathers have a sense of humour.
I’m sure the cityscape has changed a lot since I left, but some things don’t change, they just mellow over time.
Since we’re now in the middle of the annual whale migration, I’ve been communing with the whales on one of the half dozen boats that take eager tourists out to view these majestic mammals. This trip was a little bit different for me because I went out with a small group of other keen photographers, escorted by a professional. I was there to learn how to get the best shots I could with my equipment. I brought along both my cameras – one fitted with a wide-angle lens, and the other with a 70-300mm zoom. The long lens was to take shots of whales further out, breaching and the like. As it happened, the long lens just got in the way.
I went out on a new-to-me boat, Freedom III. Each of the whale boats sets itself up for a niche – because everybody basically wants to see whales. Freedom has two niches – only 45 passengers on a lower-to-the-water boat so you get a more personal experience with the whales, and excellent food.
Home-made scones with jam and cream, and profiteroles for morning tea, an excellent lunch with chicken, ham, and various salads and dinner rolls, and afternoon tea was fruit and cheese. All very nice. Guests could purchase wine, beer, and water, and coffee and tea (Dilmah) was free.
Back to the whales.
I wasn’t the only one surprised to encounter our first whale no more than 5km from the boat harbour. Platypus Bay, where the whales congregate, is about 40km from port, so this whale was very close to shore. I also wasn’t the only one concerned about that. The water is shallow and two whales had recently become stranded in the Great Sandy Strait, where they died. I wrote about that the other week. Still, with so many thousands of whales making the migration these days, I suppose it’s inevitable that there will be unpleasant occurrences.
Humpback whales do an annual migration along both sides of Australia from Antarctica, swimming up to the warmer tropical waters to have their calves, mate, and do some sight-seeing before they make the journey South to the rich krill grounds in Antarctica. (As an aside, I object to the idea of selling krill oil in chemist shops. Krill is whale food. Why save the whales if you deprive them of food?) In most parts of Australia offering whale watch trips the whales are on the move, going from here to there with purpose. But they divert into Hervey Bay, where they’ll stay for a day or a week to mooch around, fatten their calves, fool around with their fellows, and interact with humans.
There are very strict rules around boats and whales. You’ll find the details here, but in summary, skippers must not harass them. A boat can’t come closer than 300m. This translates to the whales having to decide to come and say hello. If they come within 150m, the skipper has to turn off the engine. So if you have a close encounter with a whale, be assured that it is the whale’s choice, which is a wonderful privilege. If whales come very close and hang around, it’s known as being ‘mugged’. The boat cannot leave until the whale decides to go away. We were ‘mugged’ three times in our day on the water.
The first case was a few sub-adults who hung around for a while and did a fair bit of spyhopping. This is where the whale hangs vertically in the water with its head above the surface. They have excellent eyesight, so what they’re really doing is looking at the boats. When they got bored, they left and we went on our way.
The second time we had to ‘rescue’ another boat, which was on a timetable and needed to head back to port. Freedom kind of took over their muggers, an adult female with a would-be suitor, and a mother and calf with escort. The courting couple put on quite a show. She acted as a seductress, rolling around in the water and showing off her white belly. The male tried a few moves, draping a pectoral across her body, but she was still playing hard to get.
And the third time a solitary female hung around for over an hour, swimming back and forth on both sides of the boat, inspecting the hull from bow to stern. She was a joy. She sprayed us all with water by blowing air out of her blowholes. She snorted, causing us to wipe whale snot off lenses more than once. She blew bubbles. She rolled around in the water, staring up at us with clearly-visible, open eyes.
It’s actually pretty funny being on one of these boats when the whales are circling. People run from side to side, jockeying for position to get the best shot. It’s easier when there’s more than one whale – if they don’t decide to be on the same side. In this case, a bit of whale-fatigue set in (which frankly astonished all of us in the photography group). People sat down inside and got stuck into a drink or three, oblivious to the wonderful show outside. Still, that meant more room for us.
I suppose you could say we were lucky that she got tired of us at about the time the skipper was looking anxiously at his watch. We headed for home, we photographers sharing a look at shots on our cameras. I didn’t quite fill up a 32GB SD card, but I did go through a battery. I took about six photos with the long lens because the battery had died in the camera with the wide-angle lens. Yes, I brought spares, but they were in my bag, compulsorily stashed away with everybody else’s, so I took the battery out of the one with the long lens and replaced the one that was spent. Even with a lens capable of 18mm, that wasn’t always wide enough to capture the entire whale in one image.
No, we didn’t see much of the more spectacular part of whale watching – breaching, and the like. I’ve seen that and I have some great pictures. But you know what? This kind of interaction we had today is somehow better. It’s more personal, more a sense of one intelligent creature attempting to commune with another species.
I had a wonderful day. I hope you enjoy looking at the photos almost as much as I enjoyed taking them. Here’s a few more because I can – and I love it.
Like it says on the header – writer, photographer, animal lover, space nut. It has been a little while since I addressed the commercial part of ‘photographer’, so recently I decided to divert my procrastination in the writing arena into offering a few photos to the stock photo sites I use to sell my wares.
Most of the pictures I’ve had online have been of birds, insects, or whales. To be honest, I’d found Dreamstime (which is a large stock photo site used by a LOT of designers) wasn’t very interested in my landscapes and sunset/sunrise shots, so I stopped sending them. Then I figured, all they can do is refuse. They didn’t (!). There are millions of photos on these sites, many of the same place. I had a lot of excellent photos of our Rhine cruises refused because, “we’ve already got lots of the same subject and this photo isn’t better.” Which is fair enough. But it seems the Australian landscape category isn’t quite so full.
I’ve even added a few quite old pictures to my collection. That said, I can certainly see how the quality has improved over the years. What I might once have thought was an OK photo is these days relegated to the ‘meh’ basket. Or even deleted.
Dreamstime accepted all the pictures I posted – except one. That very nice (if I do say so myself) picture of Southbank in Melbourne was refused. I knew not to show any logos, and carefully removed the few that were visible. But even that was not enough. I would have had to obtain property releases (permission to use their building in a photo) for Dreamstime to accept the picture. I expect the main culprit for that one would be Crown Casino – but – it’s not that important to me.
Buildings can be copyrighted. You can’t sell a photo of the Sydney Opera House without permission, and that’s just one I know about, Here’s what Dreamstime has to say about these matters.
“check carefully for copyright issues such as labels, logos, characters from cartoons or movies etc. Note that some buildings are protected by a trademark (such as new sculptures), cars like Ferrari and Porsche, Harley Davidson motorcycles, the Coca-Cola bottle, the Olympic logo circles.”
This photo (above) was refused because of the spinnakers. There are no logos on those sails – just standard bought-from-the-shop colour. But as we all know, many racing boats have sponsorship. I might have tried explaining the issue didn’t exist for my picture, but honestly, I couldn’t be bothered.
And I suppose all this makes sense. If a designer bought an image with a logo on it, then used it to sell something which would impact that logo, the owner of the logo would have every right to be annoyed. For example, a BMW bike ad showing a broken down Harley-Davidson (or something), I’m sure you can think of others. Any photos with recognisable people in them need a model release for the same reason, if the photo is for commercial use. You may think that’s not really an issue for me. I don’t take pictures of people – but it’s a consideration even if the people are in there by accident. For example, a photo of a whale spy-hopping. It’s nice to include people in those scenes, but I’d need a model release if the people could be identified, even from the back, like in the photo below.
Before you ask, I don’t sell many images. My best sellers (ha ha) are whale shots. So why do I do it? Well, quite a few people asked me if I sold photos when I posted pictures on Facebook. That encouraged me to try a stock photo site, where I quickly discovered that the quality required was quite a few notches above ‘looks good on Facebook’. And in the end, that’s why I do it. I get a silly little buzz when stock sites accept my photos simply because it means they’re technically good enough to make the cut.
And while you might think that ‘technically good enough’ is the same for all sites, it’s not. I’ve had photos accepted at Canstock and not Dreamstime and vice versa. So I guess there’s an element of subjectivity in the process.
Of course, you can see most of these online at Dreamstime. But I thought I’d share some, anyway. And one that didn’t make the grade.
Deary, deary me. We got home from our trip to the wilds of Far North Queensland, and I couldn’t wait to turn on the computer to take a look at my photos on the big screen. I loaded the pics into Lightroom, then cleared the SD card (as you do). AFTER that I noticed a whole days worth of pictures were missing – the day when I really thought I’d made some great shots.
I didn’t say Oops! Those of you who know me would be aware that a succession of adjectives starting with F was in the mix. Sorry, Mum, but sometimes nothing else will do. We’d stumbled off a train at 5am after a pretty ordinary nights’ sleep. You know how it is – you check the time every hour on the hour so as not to miss the stop. Lesson #1: don’t do anything remotely technical while in zombie mode.
After I’d recovered from the resulting heart spasm, I got my overtired brain into gear.Operating systems don’t actually delete anything. The pictures should still be there. If you’re thinking I could have looked in the recycle bin, the OS only does that with files on the hard drive, not temporary devices like SD cards. But even so, I suspected my files should still be there.
You’ll be familiar with the Explorer interface when you open a folder on your computer. You get a list of files, date, file type, size. Click on a filename, and you get the file. The interface is like an index card. Each entry contains information that the OS uses to find the data and display it. When you delete a file, the record on the index card is flagged as ‘deleted’. That’s it – unless you use special software to erase the actual data. Over time, your ‘deleted’ data will be overwritten as you save new data. But until that time, your existing data is still there, unchanged.
Back in the day, I could have wriggled my way into the OS and toggled that delete flag on the index record – but that was then, and this is now, so I went looking for an application to recover my pictures.
There are plenty of packages out there to do the job, but I’m very careful about software without a recommendation. I paid good money for one, years ago, that looked great – but didn’t work at all. I think they were collecting credit card details – so I cancelled my credit card, with the associated dramas. This time, I found what I was looking for via CNet, complete with a ‘how to’ article. And the best news is, the app is FREE. There is an option to buy a more sophisticated version, but I didn’t need it.
I installed Recuva and ran the app on my SD cards. It worked as described, but while the software found a lot of old data which hadn’t been overwritten, it didn’t find my files from the last month. After a fair bit of mucking about, and a good night’s sleep, I thought the issue was the program was looking for the usual image file types – .jpg, .tiff, .png, .bmp – but not Canon’s raw file format, .CR2. So I went into Recuva’s advanced mode and changed the search parameters to just *.CR2. And… bingo! I have my pictures back!
So if you ever have an ‘oh shit’ moment, deleting a file you didn’t mean to delete, try Recuva. In our case, it’s a bloody sight cheaper than a trip back to Karumba and environs.
And here’s a picture from that day, just as a bonus prize before I write the blog posts for the trip.
Weeks fly by when you’re past a certain age. This one has flitted off into history. But it has a few highlights. The Australian online census for one. As it happens, this household was one of the few that filled in the information and got it into the system before the Denial of Service attack.
Let’s get this clear, folks. Denial of Service is NOT hacking. DoS is what it sounds like – somebody triggers huge volumes of requests to the system so that it becomes overloaded and fails. Which means genuine clients are denied service. It’s impossible to prevent such attacks, but it is possible to mitigate them. That’s where the security failed. Hacking is when somebody gets in and steals data. We may never know if that happened, but personally, I’d be much more worried about my bank, or Centrelink, or a credit assessment company, being hacked.
That said, I think the Government has (hopefully) learned some valuable lessons for when it develops an online voting system.
And then there’s the Olympic Games. I used to be a fan, but my interest has waned over the years. We all had such high hopes when the East German doping scandals were uncovered way back then. Then there was the Chinese state-run doping. Then there was Lance Armstrong. Then there was the paralympic basketball team which won gold, and was then exposed as fraud. I could go on. Fixed cricket matches, drug cheat tennis players, and now the Russians have been exposed as state run dopers. Sorry, but I don’t believe any of it anymore – that covers pretty much all sport, not just the Olympics. It seems today you can’t win in elite sport unless you use banned substances. And even when the athletes are clean, you wonder. Michael Phelps? Chris Froome? It’s all about the money, isn’t it?
Speaking of money, it goes without saying that the International Olympic committee is likely to smell as sweet as FIFA, for the same reasons. But that’s just one part of the pie. National Olympic committees spend millions (at least) on putting up bids. Then when they win, they spend billions on the facilities. And that means in countries like South Africa, India, and Brazil, poor people are kicked out of their homes to make way for car parks and glittering edifices. And the opening ceremonies are all about doing it better than the last show. I’m not surprised the Brazilian people are not happy. Imagine if all that money had been spent on improving the lot of the people?
Okay, that’s my grumpy-bum rant for this week. Here’s a few raptor pictures.
This week is all a bit introspective and doom and gloom, so feel free to scroll down to the photos.
I read an interesting article recently about the times we live in, and how many of us (including me) think it’s a very dangerous time. Is it me or is the world going crazy? Well worth a read. There’s a lot to like about what he has to say, and certainly the spread of social media has had a profound impact on where we source our news, and what we read.
And yet… Humanity never seems to learn. Since 2014, and for a few years yet, we have ‘celebrated’ the centennial of the Great War, with regular articles of one battle after another. We don’t get that for the Napoleonic Wars – just Waterloo, and Trafalgar. The Napoleonic Wars devastated Europe and its population it took decades for mainland Europe to recover, and incidentally, that was one of the reasons why Britain, which went through relatively unscathed, came to dominate the Western world. [Gets off history lectern]
Me, I’m a bit over heroism and sacrifice and fighting for our future, our very way of life. Sorry, Australian troops in WW1 were certainly heroic and sacrificed their lives or their health in these awful battles. But they were cannon fodder, used up and spat out in a war which had even less to do with them than it had to do with the rural villagers of Britain, mown down by the German machine guns. All that war did was sow the seeds for the next one, in which our soldiers did indeed fight for our future, our very way of life – with their backs to wall.
Which brings me back to what’s happening now. More and more, the world is beginning to resemble the political playing fields of the nineteen thirties. Putin is effectively dictator of Russia, making no secret of his expansionist policies. Erdogan, in Turkey, manufactured a coup to help seal his own despotic rule, to me reminiscent of Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives. The West is worried about Islamism (not ordinary people worshipping a God but fanatical nut jobs bent on murdering innocent people – which is reminiscent of the spread of Islam in the 8th and 9th century). The USA is turning ever further right wing, mass shootings have become commonplace. “Democracy” is failing. And when will the West learn that you cannot force democracy on people? Nor can the West hope to assimilate millions of refugees with radically different beliefs and societal mores. You have only to look at the experience of women in German cities attending New Years Eve celebrations, where they were set upon and sexually assaulted by hordes of young men.
Seems to this old biddy that we’re heading into dangerous global waters. But meanwhile, here’s a few more insect shots for us all to enjoy.
I’m soooo tired of the f*cking American presidential election. Sorry (if you’re an American and think it all makes sense) but I think it’s a huge waste of money – billions spent over what feels like a couple of years, every four years, and for what? Unless the President has the support of the House of Reps and the Senate, s/he is pretty much a figurehead blamed for everything that isn’t working. Still and all, that’s America’s business, just as Brexit was British business, and our own too-long election was Australian business.
All of them show a pattern, though. We’re all sick of professional politicians. And that’s all I’ll say. This blog is all about ME.
And this week’s pictures is a continuation of the insects theme.