Finding Flowers

Purple Deadnettle--an early bloomer

Purple Deadnettle–an early bloomer

Yesterday, while walking Tisen through the park, I noticed things were starting to bloom.  Not big things, but tiny little things and, of course, dandelions.  Since I haven’t shot outdoors much lately, I thought I’d try seeing how well my image stabilization works on my 100mm macro lens and try hand-holding some macro shots of these blooms.

Since I was hand holding while holding a dog, I decided to forego extension tubes.  These cut down the light by a couple of stops when I use all three–less light means slower shutter speeds, which leads to more blur when hand holding.

Bright spots

Bright spots

I am still enamored with dandelions.  Their big, bright blooms light up the mostly dead grass like tiny suns.  They make a gray day seem cheerful.  They also seem to promise spring is right around the corner.  I wish they would let the weather service know–they keep talking about 20 degree weather coming our way.  I really thought we were past that.

The other things blooming weren’t flowers I knew.  I did a little searching online and determined that these are Purple Deadnettle:

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Apparently most of the stuff blooming in February is non-native.  I guess that’s how it got so widespread–by starting early.

A similar bloom was in another section of the park.  I believe this is Henbit Deadnettle:

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The last flower in this small collection was a complete mystery to me.  From my searching, I believe it is Harbinger-of-Spring, which, happily, is a native wildflower:

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I really needed extension tubes and a tripod to get a good shot of this one.

I don’t think Tisen liked any of the flowers.  He kept peeing on them.  Fortunately, not while I was shooting them.  That would have made for an interesting action shot!

Henbit Deadnettle from the side

Henbit Deadnettle from the side

Tisen seems to think it’s fine for him to stop and sniff whenever and for however long he likes, yet he gets impatient when I stop to shoot.  He was particularly unhappy when I spotted the Harbinger-of-Spring and had to back up so I could get a shot.  He was very focused on getting to the next good scent.

More purple deadnettle

More purple deadnettle

Once many weeks ago, when Tisen was particularly involved in snorting every last particle of scent off a tree trunk, a man walked by and said, “Catching up on all the good gossip!”  That’s the perfect description of what Tisen was doing.

In any case, I found myself struggling against the pull of Tisen against the leash I was holding while shooting.  Between Tisen tugging and the wind blowing, I had many a blurry shot.  However, I was pretty impressed with the image stabilization.  Without it, I doubt I would have gotten any sharp shots at all given that I was shooting at 1/60 sec or slower for all but one of these images.

Clearly, I needed something much faster to catch Tisen while he played with Pink Dog (borrowed from his girlfriend, Twiggy):

Tisen is a blur at 1/50 of a second

Tisen is a blur at 1/50 of a second

 

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Mini Still Life

Side-lit, the decoration on a bobby pin takes on lots of shine

Side-lit, the decoration on a bobby pin takes on lots of shine

Here I am on a Tuesday night.  It’s Chinese take out night.  We’ve gotten our food, returned home, eaten (sans fortune cookies because I forgot to grab some on the way out and they never put them in the bag at this place), and it’s theoretically time to unwind and relax for the rest of the evening.

This, of course, translates to “time to write my blog” for me.  And, the realization that I have no pictures from the weekend causes me to scratch my head.  I ponder what I can possibly do for a photographic experiment tonight.  I decide to try something I’ve never tried before:  macro with flash.

But now, I need something to shoot.  Something small.  Really small.

The snoot produces less sparkle

The snoot produces less sparkle

My eyes fall on the fluffy area rug in the living room.  It has lots of great texture, but I want something shiny with the flash.

I end up digging a couple of bobby pins out of my jewelry box and positioning them with some black glass beads on the carpet.  I find a hand-shaped hair-dryer diffuser and decide it will add some background color.

Laid back view of the flower--not as sharp at this angle

Laid back view of the flower–not as sharp at this angle

I start with a snoot on the flash to see what happens when I use it to direct the light onto the subject (a snoot is like a narrow tube around the flash).  After shooting with a snoot for a while, I decide the light looks flat and I should try bouncing the flash off of something instead. The trouble is, what to bounce it off of?  I’m in the middle of a large room shooting something that’s about a half an inch wide.

Straight on with the snoot has the least sparkle

Straight on with the snoot has the least sparkle

I pull out my mini reflector and position my tripod in such a way that I can get it to stand up.  I’m so proud of myself, I have to take a picture of my setup.  This gives me the opportunity to practice iPhone photography in the same shoot!

I’m over-the-top-excited now.  I use the new app I downloaded yesterday, Camera+, and try to make use of the levels on the screen to get something reasonably straight.  I don’t know how to tell if I succeeded or not from all the angles in the image, however.

My setup for the side-lit image at the top

My setup for the side-lit image at the top

As you may be able to tell, my DSLR has 3 extension tubes on it in addition to the 100mm macro lens.  I’ve got the flash swiveled to the right to bounce off the reflector hanging on the tripod.  For those of you who don’t care about the setup, can you find the subject of the other images? Pretty small, huh?

I had a lot of fun with this.  I don’t know exactly why I find this fun, but I do.  However, Tisen wasn’t so amused by my shenanigans.  At one point, I had my tripod with the legs stretched out flat on the floor, he came over and laid on top of one of the legs.  Maybe he was just trying to help?

A blurry Tisen with a stuck lip--a sure sign he jerked his head up from a cat nap

A blurry Tisen with a stuck lip–a sure sign he jerked his head up from a cat nap

iPhone Couch Potato

Close-up of dinner, which happened to be in my lap

Close-up of dinner, which happened to be in my lap

In a moment of desperation, after realizing I had no photos for this post and it was already after 9PM, and, more importantly, I had already crashed on the sofa and Tisen had burrowed in next to me, I decided it was a good time to experiment with my iPhone.

Recently, my bestie suggested writing a “how-to” on taking better photos with a smart phone for people like her.

I like the idea of teaching photography, although I’m not a pro and I have much to learn.  The thought of teaching photography in simple non-technical terms for people who don’t want to be pros relieves some of the pressure.

The problem is, I rarely use my iPhone for photos.  And when I do, my photos usually suck.  So, I figured I could use a few lessons myself.

The problem with shooting blind is not knowing what ended up in the frame until after the shot has been taken

The problem with shooting blind is not knowing what ended up in the frame until after the shot has been taken

I did some googling on taking better photos with an iPhone over the weekend.  I didn’t find much that was particularly helpful.  Most the articles I found either provided tips that apply to any photography or mentioned changing settings I couldn’t figure out how to change.  I tried searching for camera apps to see what I was missing.  I did find an interesting app that provides some control of the exposure and has a setting that turns the LED on so you can see what’s in your frame before you shoot in the dark.  I couldn’t however, find the advertised pre-sets for different types of subjects.

It’s funny how I used to figure out how to do really confusing and technical things and now I suddenly can’t figure out how to work iPhone apps.  Am I getting old?

Tilt and yaw created a bad angle, although you can at least see that Tisen has his nose covered

Tilt and yaw created a bad angle, although you can at least see that Tisen has his nose covered

In any case, I attempted to do some couch potato shooting.  I was parked laptop in lap and dog at my side–it’s hard to get motivated to get up sometimes.

I think I figured out why I usually end up hating my iPhone shots:

  1. I frequently use the iPhone to take shots I would never attempt with my DSLR.  For example, holding my iPhone out at arm’s length and trying to get a portrait of Tisen while shooting in a dark room (which means I have to have the screen facing away from me for the “flash” to work and I am shooting completely blind).
  2. I have a very difficult time holding the iPhone straight in all 3 directions (or even 1 direction) because I have to hold it away from me to view the screen since there is no viewfinder.  I frequently try many times to get the angle I want and still don’t quite get it.
  3. I haven’t found anything that let’s me control depth of field.  I really miss controlling depth of field.

 

Top down view of Tisen cuddling against my leg, showing off his spotted head

Top down view of Tisen cuddling against my leg, showing off his spotted head

That said, the photographer’s adage is “the best camera is the one you have with you” and there is a lot to be said for smart phone cameras when it comes to having them with you–even when you’re just laying around on the sofa.

Taken with the app I just downloaded, with the LED on, I'm able to get better exposure

Taken with the app I just downloaded, with the LED on, I’m able to get better exposure

Finding Fun

Pink clouds capture my attention when I glance out the window

Pink clouds capture my attention when I glance out the window

We agreed to do something fun this weekend.  However, we didn’t agree on what we would do.  I, of course, wanted to go hiking.  My husband, however, wanted to do something that wasn’t physical because his ankle has been bothering him.  Given that I can’t argue with an injury, I contemplated what we could possibly do that would not be physically demanding, but that could include Tisen.

I suggested we take a drive to Atlanta to go to IKEA, something we had planned to do a month or so ago, but ended up not doing.

The pink streaks reach all the way to the view directly in front of us, which is almost due North

The pink streaks reach all the way to the view directly in front of us, which is almost due North

IKEA is one of those places that always sounds great to me.  Lots of cool, clever, and affordable concepts to make a home more livable.  And, we could use some shelving and lighting, etc. in our new place.

So, we loaded Tisen up in the car about mid-morning Saturday and off we went.  The drive to Atlanta is not nearly as scenic as the drive to Nashville.  There is no IKEA in Tennessee, however, so Atlanta was the closest choice.  We made one stop for a fast-food lunch.  It occurred to me that if we’re going to do a road trip, we should start planning our route based on enjoyable, healthier restaurants.  It’s just no fun to eat fast food.

Once we made it to IKEA, by the time we found a parking spot and through the front door, I was ready for a nap.  Have I mentioned I hate to shop?  I don’t know why I always think going to IKEA is going to be fun.  I’ve been to about 3 IKEAs now and I always have the same experience:  I start out excited by the idea; then, as soon as we walk in the door, I feel exhausted and overwhelmed by choices.  By the time we get about a quarter of the way through the first show room, I am practically shoving people out of the way because I can’t get through there fast enough.

The light eventually fades, leaving only a faint glow between the clouds and the ridge

The light eventually fades, leaving only a faint glow between the clouds and the ridge

The further we get into the store, the more my desire to leave increases.  All I can think about it how much I don’t want to be there.

We did make it out of the store without inciting a riot.  We immediately used my iPhone to find the closest park.  We found a lovely little park in the middle of a nearby neighborhood and took Tisen for a loop around it.  I felt human again afterwards.

Able to breathe again, we returned to the car and drove the nearly two hours back home.

We not only failed to do something fun, but we also ended up walking further than my husband intended.

On the plus side, we spent some quality time together in the car.  And, later that day, there was a nice sunset partially viewable from our balcony.

I decided to do a short time lapse “video” of the clouds blowing through as the sun went down and the light faded away.

Tisen and his infamous purple monkey

Tisen and his infamous purple monkey

The Plight of the Purple Monkey

Purple Monkey after his vibratorectomy

Purple Monkey after his vibratorectomy

The saga of Purple Monkey began last weekend.  I had to run errands–we ran out of trash bags.  This has never happened before.  This is the one aspect of running a household that I’m usually on top of.  It started with paranoia about running out of toilet paper, which goes back to a guy I dated when I was in college who was forever out of toilet paper.  The outages led to improvisation that led to clogged toilets.  Having a father who wrote a book about plumbing, this was sacrilege.  In the end, I came away with a compulsion to stockpile toilet paper.

Soon, my compulsion expanded to include other household supplies.  Trash bags, plastic wrap, toothpaste, dental floss, paper towels, hand soap, dish soap, laundry detergent, bath soap, and a variety of “daily needs” items are all well-stocked in my house.

My husband teases me that I think “we’re almost out” of toilet paper when we have less than 24 rolls in the house.  When the toilet paper supply dwindles, I take stock of anything else running low, make a dash to Target, and buy in bulk.  It’s a system that works for me.

The offending part

The offending part

However, one of the side effects of having a housekeeper is that she takes the trash out and we rarely use more than one kitchen trash bag a week, so I never see the level of the trash bag supply anymore.  I was caught completely off guard.

I made an emergency run to Target.  Tisen went with me and waited patiently in the car.  After, I took him into PetSmart to stock up on poop bags and, of course, let him pick out his own toy.

He chose Purple Monkey.  At least, I thought it was a monkey.  Whatever it is, as mentioned in yesterday’s blog, it has a bizarre vibrator inside of it that makes it jiggle.  Tisen didn’t like the vibration, so, for the first time since we’ve had him, he chewed on a toy–he broke the vibrator inside.  That wasn’t enough to satisfy him.

Purple Monkey's trap door

Purple Monkey’s trap door

Today, he decided the vibrator had to come out.  He pulled at it until he got it lose from the fabric it was glued to.  I finished the job for him, afraid he was going to hurt his teeth.  Tisen seemed relieved.

Purple Monkey has a flap on his backside held shut with velcro.  The flap was intended to allow for battery changes.  As I examine this toy, I have to wonder if the designer had every seen a dog at play in his/her life.  What dog would want a toy with a giant motor in it?

Tisen treats his toys more gently than any dog I’ve ever seen, yet even he couldn’t stand that stupid motor.  It was made by Toys-R-Us Pets.  I suspect it was considered a choking hazard for children so they relabeled as a pet toy, but maybe this is just my paranoia.

Tisen contentedly plays with his old friend, Jack, while I shoot Purple Monkey

Tisen contentedly plays with his old friend, Jack, while I shoot Purple Monkey

Night Lights

The light on our Time Capsule reflected in the top of the cable box it sits on

The light on our Time Capsule reflected in the top of the cable box it sits on

Have you ever noticed how many tiny little lights there are glowing away in our homes these days?  I had to banish all electronics (besides my iPhone, which is also my alarm clock) from our bedroom several years ago because of the lights.

The glowing apple is almost enough light to ready by

The glowing apple is almost enough light to ready by

After struggling with sleep issues, I was educated on ways to improve my sleep environment.  The first rule was to remove all light sources from the room, including my clock.  I had no idea how bright our room was until we started removing the lights.

Room darkening blinds, the removal of all electronics, and closing the interior doors revealed we had a bright light on an alarm panel permanently mounted on the bedroom wall.  I ended up using an old pair of biking shorts wrapped around the panel to cover the light (that was always a little awkward to explain on the rare occasions we showed our bedroom to a guest).  When we turned off the last light as we went to bed, we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces.  We both slept much better.

The only symbol I recognize is the power symbol.  I have no idea what the other two lights on our cable box mean.

The only symbol I recognize is the power symbol. I have no idea what the other two lights on our cable box mean.

Once I was used to sleeping in a totally dark room, I became hyper-sensitive to lights in hotel rooms.  I have to unplug alarm clocks and carefully position the light-blocking curtain, sometimes moving furniture to hold the curtain against the window to prevent light leakage.

Glow of a power button next to stray light coming through the vent

Glow of a power button next to stray light coming through the vent

Once, at a conference in Vegas, my hotel room, a ridiculously large suite, had a sunken seating area.  Because there were steps down to the seating area, lights were installed in the floor for safety.  Unfortunately, they didn’t turn off.  I’m sure the housekeeper wondered why I kept leaving a towel on the floor, but that was the only way I could get to sleep–cover the lights.  I couldn’t seem to remember to pick it up in the morning.

Laptop lights are deceptively bright--a sleeping laptop in the room is enough light to keep me up

Laptop lights are deceptively bright–a sleeping laptop in the room is enough light to keep me up

Tonight, looking around for a photographic subject after working past sunset, I noticed all the glowing lights in the office.  I found myself wondering what they would look like in photographs.

Perhaps they would be more interesting in a wide angle shot of a totally dark room with all these little lights glowing like a constellation in color?  It was fun to try shooting them, though.  I try to remind myself it’s about the journey and not the destination.  🙂

Our own, tiny traffic light is actually the lights on a surge protector

Our own, tiny traffic light is actually the lights on a surge protector

Tisen was not very interested in my photographic experiment.  He was more interested in playing with his newest toy.  I was surprised he picked this toy when we stopped at PetSmart the other day.  It doesn’t have a squeaker in it.  This is usually a show-stopper when it comes to Tisen’s selection of toys.

This one has a strange vibrating device in it.  When you squeeze its paw, it vibrates in a rather strange, R-rated sort of way.  Tisen doesn’t like when it vibrates while he has it in his mouth.  I finally realized he wasn’t playing with it, he was trying to get it to stop vibrating–permanently.  He succeeded.

Tisen puts an end to the vibration in this toy

Tisen puts an end to the vibration in this toy

Blowing Smoke

The Market Street draw bridge remained down even though the Delta Queen implied she might want to pass

The Market Street draw bridge remained down even though the Delta Queen implied she might want to pass

 

This morning, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful, if cold, day.  (“Cold,” of course, is relative.  The low was 42 F today.  That’s not really cold, is it?)  However, the sunny day turned into a gray and then rainy afternoon.

When Tisen and I took our evening walk, it was barely “spitting” (as my relatives used to call it) as we started down our usual route.  By the time we made it to the river, it was spitting pretty darn hard.  This caused me to rush Tisen through our walk.  It didn’t take a lot of coaxing–Tisen is not fond of walking in the rain.

As we double-timed through the park, Tisen suddenly did a reverse maneuver, probably having caught the scent of another dog that he felt compelled to try to out-mark.  In the process, he spun me around, causing me to look up in the increasing rain.  I saw a surprising site.  I saw a huge plume of dark smoke rising over the Market St bridge.  My first thought was that a car on the bridge had exploded.

Smoke billows in the wind over the bridge

Smoke billows in the wind over the bridge

Perhaps it seems extreme to assume a car had exploded.  However, having had the experience of being awakened in the middle of the night by the percussion of an exploding car a few years ago, exploding cars seem more probable to me than they once did.

That was quite a night.  I ran outside in my pajamas and tried to get close enough to the burning car to see if anyone was inside who needed to be pulled out.  But the fire was burning so hot, I had to step back while I was still many yards away.  This turned out to be a good thing because the car kept having more (smaller) explosions as various tanks and tubes reached combustion temperatures.

The big boom was apparently the gas tank exploding.  Fortunately, there wasn’t anyone inside.  It was a car that someone had reported stolen that had been dumped and burned in front of our property (fortunately a wooded side lot and not in front of our house) back in Columbus.  We always suspected some kind of insurance fraud, but I have no idea how it turned out.

View through Renaissance Park to the Market St Bridge

View through Renaissance Park to the Market St Bridge

In any case, it wasn’t an exploding car today.  Rather, it was a rare sight.  It was smoke pouring out of the Delta Queen smoke stack from just behind the bridge.  While it doesn’t make such a dramatic image against the gray sky, I had to run upstairs and get a shot for posterity’s sake.  The Delta Queen was once a glorious river boat, but it’s been a stationary floating hotel for a lot of years now.  I’m at a loss to explain why it would have stoked its fires when it never goes anywhere.

Whatever the reason they decided to light the fire in the Delta Queen, I’m glad no cars exploded.  That would have been awfully messy up on the bridge.

Tisen attempts to smile for the camera

Tisen attempts to smile for the camera