A Little Passion

Pat joined Tisen and I for a quick stroll around the park the other day.  As we made our way down the path, we spot a strange, tiny alien vessel parked along the sidewalk.  We paused.  We stared.  We tried to decide if we were in any danger.

Eventually, we decided it was, in fact, a flower.  Neither of us could recall having ever seen such a flower before–yet, there certainly wasn’t any evidence of this being a recent addition.

Since I only had a 15 minute break, we double-timed it around the park and I made it to my next conference call.  But the strange, alien-looking flower stuck in my mind.  I watched out the window as the clouds gathered into a charcoal grey mass and suddenly let loose with a series of lightening strikes that were close enough to make all the body hair I didn’t know I had stand on end.  I looked over at Tisen who, even more tired than I am, slept through the first few rumbles of thunder.

I went back to concentrating on work, glad Tisen wasn’t disturbed by the storm.  When I next noticed my surroundings, I moved my foot and discovered Tisen was tightly curled around it on the floor.  I’m not sure how long he was there before I noticed, but he was snoring again, his breath warming my ankle.

The thunder and lightening subsided after some of the craziest strikes I’ve ever seen.  I wished I’d had a chance to set up my camera and shoot a couple of really cool lightening bolts.  But, Tisen was definitely glad I was safe inside and out of harm’s way.  Or, perhaps that he had my feet to keep him safe.

By the time I decided I had to stop working, the sky was lightening as if the sun had decided to reverse direction.  The cloud cover turned brighter gray, the lightening and thunder stopped, and the torrential downpour let up completely.  I decided to not only get out my camera and put the macro lens on, but I also used my extension tubes for really close-up shooting.  I convinced Pat to join me and Tisen so I wouldn’t have to hold the dog while I was shooting.  I even grabbed my tripod, a mini-light reflector, and a plastic garbage bag I stuffed in my back pocket.  I felt like a real photographer.

Then, I went after those aliens.  They were drenched and a bit beaten by the weather, but the occasional rain drop still clung to their innards and petals.

Eventually, I googled until I found out this is the state flower of Tennessee, the Passionflower.  While that seems like the most perfect name for this flower to me, supposedly it’s also called a Maypop.  I didn’t see any in May, but maybe they were late bloomers this year?

Bright Beauties

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As I look through my images from Sunday in the search for something to post today, I realize that I can’t remember going outside today.  My first conference call started early and I ran out of time to take Tisen on his morning walk.  My husband filled in for me on walking duty–I was happy to hand off given that it was pouring down rain.

My day remained jam-packed until 6:30PM when my husband came home and I looked up to realize I’d been sitting at my desk nearly non-stop for 10 ½ hours.

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That was when I actually did go outside.  Poor Tisen hadn’t had a mid-day break because I was too busy.  I took him out in a bit of a daze, having trouble focusing after having been looking 2 feet in front of me all day.  We did a quick lap around the smaller section of the park given that it was misting and threatening to break out into another honest downpour at any moment.

As I think back, I now remember that trek around the park.  The exercise class working out in the misting rain, the children up on the sledding hill, and running into a neighbor with a  tiny pomeranian puppy Tisen seems to be afraid of.   It was while I was talking to the neighbor that it dawned on me I hadn’t brushed my teeth.  I tried not to smile too much.

Appearing out of seemingly nowhere amongst what might be grass

Appearing out of seemingly nowhere amongst what might be grass

When we got back inside, I went back to work, trying to wrap up on a couple of items I hadn’t had time to finish.  But not for too long–one of my goals is to keep my work day to 10 hours unless it’s a dire emergency or pressing deadline.  I’ll get there some day.

Eventually, I turned to my photos.  It was the images of the yellow flowers whose name I once knew but now escapes me that caused me to wonder if I had been outside.  Doesn’t it seem like it would be hard to walk by such bright beauties without noticing?

The new snapgreatphotos.com model

The new snapgreatphotos.com model

 

Busy Bee

The bee escapes Tisen and lands on a flower

The bee escapes Tisen and lands on a flower

A word of advice:  trying to get a good macro shot of a flying bee is best accomplished without a dog on a leash attached to your wrist.  Tisen is not always the best photographer’s dog.  Particularly not when it comes to bees.  He is not fond of bees.

At least he didn’t eat my subject.

I sometimes wonder if I have an unconscious desire to make achieving the image I have in my head as difficult as possible if not impossible.  After all, you really cannot expect to get a good shot of a bee on a flower with a macro lens while you’re standing in the park with a dog trying to chase said bee.

I have a tendency to disguise creating obstacles as efficiency–I was both getting some shooting in and walking my dog at the same time.  Realistically, my dog didn’t enjoy his walk half as much and I didn’t come close to getting the images I wanted.

Once out of Tisen's reach, he flitted from blossom to blossom

Once out of Tisen’s reach, he flitted from blossom to blossom

It may have even taken more total time because I was constantly getting tangled in the leash and having to convince my dog to stop for a while in the midst of biting flies and mosquitos.  Perhaps I need to re-think my approach to time saving.

On that note, in case you noticed my blog posts have gotten a lot shorter the past few days, it is because I have started a second blog that has a simple photography lesson each day for want-to-be photographers who are using iPhones (or other simple cameras) and who don’t want to know any of the technical details.  Check it out at snapgreatphotos.com if that’s you.

It’s a fun challenge to work out lessons that aren’t technical at all. But, since I only have a small amount of time in the evenings to work on blog posts, I’m finding it’s tough to keep up on both, especially since I’m getting used to the second one.

For my friends who read my blog during breakfast, it should be a lot easier to get to the end of my posts before you finish your cereal now!  🙂

By the way, for my readers who are Tisen fans, Tisen is my main model for my other blog, so you can get your fill of photos of him there.  But, since he is my favorite model, here’s an iPhone image just for you:

Tisen modeling for me on a breezier day with fewer bugs

Tisen modeling for me on a breezier day with fewer bugs

 

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

 

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

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