Toot, toot

Forgive this egregious violation of proper etiquette. In my book at least, one should never, ever, under any possible permutation of twisted circumstance, toot his or her own horn. I must say, however, I thought it nice that the newsletter editor of the North American Shetland Sheepbreeds Association chose to use one of my photos for the recent cover of that quarterly publication. The image was presented first here, at WordPress, in a post of entitled Early morning kerfuffle, perhaps you will remember it? Although I sent the editor a high-resolution copy of the image, it didn’t seem to make the transition to the cover well. If you would like to view a high-resolution version of this photo you may do so here.

Switzerland revisited

Few will remember a post, from nearly two years ago, in which I presented a gallery of images taken while in Switzerland as Joanna and I had the opportunity to travel there to attend the wedding of our daughter. Well, my sister recently asked if I could have one or two of those images printed for her to display in her home. Going back to the photo archives got me remembering much of that beautiful Swiss scenery. When I was in Switzerland I had not yet purchased my D600 but did have the trusty Sony HX9V along. It, in retrospect, did a highly commendable good job, I think. You might be interested to compare the image of the windowed-facade below with that which was presented in the 2012 post. Very different processing, using very different processors (GIMP in 2012, versus Adobe Lightroom in 2014). Before signing off I did want to take the opportunity to tell you about my daughter’s blog, The Scrappy Traveler. She’s been living in Switzerland for a good part of this last year, on her own, while her husband has been working to finish an academic appointment here in the States. Her blog is funny and discusses the trials and tribulations of adjusting to a new job, a new language, and new people and culture in a place far-from-home. It has all be quite the experience and has provided much for her to write about. Check it out, if you have time and inclination.


Illuminating an interloper

Although the blooms of Campsis radicans are more typically pollinated by hummingbirds, I discovered a number of opportunistic wasps scouting the depths of Trumpet Vine flowers yesterday afternoon in the side yard. I assumed the easiest way to ensure good illumination of the far reaches of the inflorescence was to position the sun at my back. This worked well enough, but to properly expose the bottom of the flower I needed to open up and, although you would have thought that this would have allowed for proper exposure of the wasp, it didn’t and the little beasts were underexposed and lacked detail. Opening up any further would have blown out exposure at the base of the flower. A good batch of thunderstorms was brewing and the afternoon was hot and uncomfortably humid. I was about to give up and seek refuge inside when I passed around the backside of the vine. The sun was intense and its light, now directly in front of me, illuminated the petals from behind, and this had the dramatic effect of setting the corolla aglow with a beautiful golden light. This illuminated the interloper nicely, don’t you think?


Sunrise and artistic vision

Joanna and I agree that colorful sunrises and sunsets have been in short supply this year, and so it was that I took great delight in the dawn of July 6. The Photographer’s Emphemeris tells me that sunrise on that day was at 5:42 AM. The photo below was time-stamped at 5:41 AM and it was the last that I captured before the sun rose above the horizon, putting an end to the beautiful twilight. I had been experimenting with a remote shutter release which allows me to more effectively use the bulb setting on my DSLR. The longest programmed shutter speed on my D600 is 30 seconds; the bulb setting allows me to hold the shutter open indefinitely, allowing for very long exposures. To capture the dim light of dawn I was using exposures as long as two and three minutes. I wonder if the photographers out there know the origin of the word bulb, as it is used in bulb setting? If you ever owned a film SLR you may recall that there was a small, conical, depression in the middle of the shutter release; it was there that you could connect a long, sleeved, cable which allowed you to release the shutter without having to touch, and shake, the camera. At the end of the sleeve there was a plunger which was either attached to a cable which ran through the sleeve and actuated the shutter, or there was a piston at the business end and a bulb which you could squeeze, at the other. This release worked pneumatically such that when you squeezed the bulb the increased pressure in the sleeve would force the piston out to trip the shutter. So, it is the actuator bulb of the remote release to which the bulb in bulb setting refers. So much for photo-trivia. Anyway, as the twilight intensified, the shutter speed required for exposure shortened and the photo below was taken at 1.0 second. Proper exposure in the sky dictated that the hayfield in the foreground be underexposed, and herein lay the beauty of a RAW file. Although I couldn’t see any details in the field when I first viewed this image, I knew that these could be recovered with a selective adjustment to exposure using Lightroom. I’m wondering if the effect looks unnatural to you? Because my pupils responded to the light in the same way the camera did, I did not view the scene as you see it below; although the sky looked alright, everything below the horizon was dark in my field of optical vision. But my artistic vision for this shot called for a juxtaposition of the colors and textures of the sky above with the colors and textures of the ground below. I liked the transitions from blue, in the high sky of twilight, to shades of purple, rusty-ochre, orange, and yellow in the illuminated cloud bottoms. Contrast this with the field; the textured seed heads in shades of golden brown and the more uniform understory of bladed grasses in muted green. I was also aware of a sense of movement, of both sky and field, toward the point-of-focus, the sunrise itself. I don’t know … am I making all of this up? To quote the lyric by Noël Regney, … do you see what I see? I wonder?


Two approaches to animal portraiture

One of my followers has commented that animal portraits seem to be my specialty. I will admit that the farm provides many good subjects and having raised animals for all these years has given me a good practical understanding of how individual species and breeds think and behave. The fortunate coincidence of opportunity and experience has, I will admit, allowed me to capture some nice shots. There seem to be two schools of animal portraiture; I have experienced both. Nearly a decade ago some dairy-farming-friends called to see if I would be interested in helping a professional photographer take some photos of a few of their prize-winning Brown Swiss dairy cows. Such images are recorded to demonstrate fine achievements in selective breeding, advertise the sale of an individual, or to highlight the prowess of a herd sire (photos of the bull are also important, but not as much as images of heifers or cows which represent his good influence). The beautifully posed portraits of Get-R-Done Braiden Gigi (on the left) and of Lee-Ann’s Braiden Glitter were taken by Cybil Fisher of Cybil Fisher Dairy Photography out of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Both of these animals provide proof of the very fine genetic potential of a bull, Blessing Tex Braiden, whose semen may be purchased at Select Sires of Plain City, Ohio. These shots have utility in that they record dairy phenotype, that suite of physical traits so important to diary farmers across the country and around the world. When I dropped in to help out my friends I learned just how difficult this sort of portraiture is. What do you notice about these two excellent portraits? How were they engineered? Both girls have had a very thorough bath; hooves and dewclaws have been painted and glossed; tails have had their switches augmented to make them look fuller; each is late to be milked, allowing her udder to show its capacity; milk veins are massive and shown to best advantage; the right-side hind leg has been placed to show the shape, placement, and attitude of the right-front teat; the girls have been placed in front of a light (artificial) background to accentuate the uniformity of the top-line; and they have been made to stand with their front hooves on a slightly elevated surface which serves to keep them alert, head-up, ears forward, and on-their-toes. There are other small tricks as well, involving mostly powders and sprays, which I won’t take time to mention. Can you imagine getting a cow, one who has little clue as to what’s going on, to do all of these things? And, at the same time? Take a quick look at the Fisher photo, bottom on the right, and you’ll see that cows are simple beasts and find all of the fussing quite trying at times. Suffice it to say that getting a really nice shot of this sort is very hard work and excellent photos, of the sort taken by Cybil Fisher, should be greatly admired.

And so now, to the Pairodox approach to animal portraiture. Certainly there is little practical utility to such casual shots in this second gallery of my own images. I believe, however, that in contrast to the shots required of the livestock industry, the images I have captured provide a feel for the animals themselves, as individuals. Maybe my images allow you to get just a little bit inside-their-heads. Perhaps you are of the opinion that animals are animals and lack character and personality. Not true. I speak from years of experience. Species have different character (horses, versus cattle, versus goats, versus sheep, versus dogs, versus cats, versus poultry, versus rabbits), and breeds within species have different character (Angus, versus Swiss, versus Holstein, versus Devon, versus Charolais, for example, among the bovines), and individuals within species can display unique personalities as well. I hope this sort of disparity (rather than diversity) among species, breeds, and individuals comes through, to at least some degree, in the animal portraits I have created.

Retrospective sixteen (June 2013)

Given the way in which blogs are presented, I am convinced that posts which reside more than a scroll or two behind the most recent are doomed to languish and to be forgotten. Because I believe there is value in looking at contributions from days, weeks, and even months ago, I present here a gallery of images presented during June of 2013. Perhaps it will be interesting to scroll through these and to compare them to those presented during this past month. Be patient, it may take several minutes for all of the images to load fully. Hovering over an image will reveal its title. Clicking one will take you to a carousel view and you can either move through the collection or click the links to read each post in its original form. Note that this is the sixteenth in my series of retrospective posts. You may find interest in taking a look at the retrospective from a year ago and if you’d missed any of the others, you can find them all by using the search feature in the sidebar to the right, simply search for retrospective.

The unexpected depths of shallow water

I decided to post the photo below because Joanna liked it and because I was encouraged to do so after reading a recent post at breathofgreenair. In a piece entitled Plockton High Tide Seonaid talked about ocean tides and how spring series’ were her favorite because they filled the bay at Plockton, allowing the reflected landscape to be painted upon the high water. I liked the phrase and the images, both literal and figurative. My own shore-side walk, along the shallows of Hospital Cove, began at 4:15 AM when Joanna nudged me to report that there was some nice color outside. Sunrise wasn’t due for another hour but the dawn of this particular day was more than worth the early start. Twilight followed and seemed to go on forever and sunrise itself put an end to the colorful warmth of daybreak. As the harsh white light intensified it illuminated the shallows through which I had been walking. Although there were denizens going about the business which would define their day, my eyes were drawn instead to the bottom and the patterns formed by cobble, pieces of broken shell, algae, and a host of tiny creatures. Perhaps the impression doesn’t translate well in the image, but this near-shore bottom looked like a mosaic to me. I watched as its component tiles changed form and position, slowly. Minute grains of sand flowed, chaotically, with the encouraging breath of the incoming tide. Larger grains progressed, as if along the teeth of a ratchet, two bits forward, one back … two forward, one back … toward the shore. Algae, dislodged, swirled in the current and eddies of moving fluid. Cobbles and the largest bits of broken shell formed stationary outposts in the ebb and flow of the changing tide. Hermit crabs and their brethren moved purposefully on their appointed rounds. What struck me, however, was that the assemblage seemed loosely coordinated. The submerged shoreline behaved as though it was alive. Like genuine organisms, the movements of my mosaic weren’t entirely predictable. A marriage of patterned activity and stochasticity, like so many gems in a child’s kaleidoscope. It was easy to walk through this changing landscape but required a good deal of concentration to stand, fully bent at the waist, to look with care. As details emerged from what had originally impressed me as a plain canvas I was struck with how the visual experience was paralleled by that which I have when viewing those infuriating stereograms (see a post from March of this year). When I first look at one of these I see nothing, save a nondescript profusion of color. In a minute or so my eyes adjust and my brain is able to pick out the clues needed to construct a three-dimensional image (of a shark moving to the left, in the stereogram below) from two-dimensional data. My mind worked in just this way when I peered into the shallows on this quiet, colorful, morning. In a way which I cannot fully describe, the myriad bits of information, like those hidden in the stereogram, coalesced to form a larger picture, my living mosaic, from out of an otherwise mundane collection of tiles. When I took the time to look I was able to eliminate the noise and allow the beautiful, living, image to float to the surface. Clicking either image will take you to a larger view.

%d bloggers like this: