Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Anyone who knows me knows that I have a little thing about sneezing -- or sneezures, as they have been called.  An article today in Eureka Alert, Allergies? Your sneeze is a biological response to the nose's 'blue screen of death' offers some insight.
Much like a temperamental computer, our noses require a "reboot" when overwhelmed, and this biological reboot is triggered by the pressure force of a sneeze. When a sneeze works properly, it resets the environment within nasal passages so "bad" particles breathed in through the nose can be trapped. The sneeze is accomplished by biochemical signals that regulate the beating of cilia (microscopic hairs) on the cells that line our nasal cavities.
Wouldn't it be amusing if one could associate the fatal error with an audible sneeze from the PC's speaker?  On the other hand, if I had a computer that rebooted like my nose, I think I'd toss it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Pity There are no Firewheels in West Virginia

Meet the Firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella), which is also know as Indian Blanketflower or Sundance.

This pretty native wildflower grows in much of central United States, from northern Mexico to southern Canada. Oddly, however, it does not grow in West Virginia, to the best of my knowledge.  A cursory bit of Googling confirms this.

This specimen was shot in a vacant lot in North Port, Florida.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Florida Gothic

The creek behind my mother's house in Warm Mineral Springs, Florida, has always fascinated me with its black water and trees hung with Spanish moss.  It is fed by the actual Warm Mineral Spring, which maintains a steady 86-degree F.  During the winter, warmth-seeking Manatees work their way up this far and loll around, letting fish pick things off of them.

This shot was taken around 5:30 p.m. on July 6,  from the next property downstream (Canon EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM at f/4.0).  In the center of the picture, you can see a part of her lawn that juts out in a slight bend.  The reflections in the black water also add an interesting photogenic touch.

I thought that this picture would be an interesting test of a PhotoShop plug-in suite called Silver Efex Pro, which lets you create some nice Black & White photography effects.  Here's the same shot as above, rendered with a faux infrared effect:

There are of course, a variety of old sepia effects.  I liked this antique sepia effect with vignetting:

Beyond the dozens of presets, you can also add your own tweaks to the settings. The two shots above are with just the default presets. I could play around with these effects for quite a while.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Catching a Cat

My mother loves her cat, Murka, and asked if I could make her a picture of it.  First of all, I must tell you that her cat doesn't like me.  I only see her (Mom/cat) for a couple of weeks a year, so the first ten days are spent in looking baleful and hissing at me (Mom/cat).  In the second place, her request forced me to think outside of my box, i.e., macro photography.

Mom wasn't impressed with this:

It wasn't quite what she had in mind.   I thought she (cat) has nice eyes.

After a couple of days of following her around and getting hissed at (cat), I caught her on the couch in front of the window.

This was still using the Canon EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens. I just discovered that I could step back a few feet with it and still get a nice shot.

Mother is happy/cat couldn't care less.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Meet the Hibiscus, a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, Malvaceae.  According to Wikipedia, the plant favors the sub-tropics and tropics, making it quite at home in southwestern Florida.  The picture is a focus stack composed of five separate macro images.

The pistil and stamens (vertical, center) are quite prounced and colorful in their own right.  I had to refresh my botany knowledge to recall that the pistil is the top-most sticky tip.  The stamens (beneath the pistil) actually consist of two parts: a stalk called a filament, topped by an anther where the pollen is produced.   This will be on the exam.  ;-)

Sunday, July 15, 2012


On the right is an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), that I shot on the same jetty as the sunset pictures

If you look closely in the upper-right of the Osprey shot, you'll see some fishing line trailing from the bird's mid-wing.  That same evening, I saw one carrying away a small fish, but I didn't get my camera out  in time. 

Camera data (Osprey)

Shutter speed:  1/250 sec
F-Stop: f/11
ISO:  200

Two Birds from Venice

Two more fowl shots from Venice, Florida.

On the left is a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). This was shot was taken at the same rookery pond near Venice, Florida, that I mentioned in The Great White. You can also see Great Blues in secluded areas along the Monongahela River here in West Virginia, but they are a lot more wary than their Florida cousins.

On the right is an Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) from the same location. When you see the anhinga swimming with just its head and neck above the water, you can see why it is also called a Snakebird.  Wikipedia's entry on the Anhinga has some interesting details about this strange bird.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Great White

There are some city buildings in Venice, Florida, off of Jacaranda Boulevard. Behind them is a park that borders upon a rookery, which sits in the middle of a small pond.  It's a great place for bird watching.

Here are two photos of the Great White Egret (Ardea alba) that I took on July 1st.  Both were taken with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L USM lens.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A penance for my thoughts -- No macros today

The interim between my last posting, Everything Looks Like A Nail, and the last few days was spent in the cooler weather of Florida's Gulf coast.  And while I did take my usual share of flower macro photos, I also managed to put my new telephoto lens through it paces.

I'm pretty happy with the following picture, taken from the jetty in Venice, Florida, around sunset on July 2.  One of the few quibbles that I have is over some of the optical artifacts, which I think were caused by having a relatively poor quality Tiffen skylight filter over the lens.  I'm sure I could do a reasonable job of removing the artifacts in PhotoShop, but I'm leaving them in for now.

It's still not bad.  If you could zoom in on the sail boat, you would see "Venice, FL" across the stern and the boat's name, "Summertime," written across the side.

Here's the sunset a few minutes later, at 8:11 p.m.