A walk in the park

June 23, 2013

I had three reasons to walk to the arboretum yesterday. First, I wanted to log more miles for a walking contest we’re having at work. Right now the team I’m on is in the lead, but another team has been closing in fast, and the contest ends this weekend.

Secondly, I wanted a better look at the labyrinth my son had been working on yesterday morning, helping another Boy Scout with his Eagle Scout project. And third, my Daily Challenge for yesterday was to take a walk and take some pictures.

It’s at least a mile to the arboretum, which boosted my miles for the day to 5.75 (along with my running at the Y and walking the dog). With all the boys and trucks cleared away from the labyrinth, I could enjoy the peaceful experience that it was meant to provide.labyrinth

I don’t know where they got the plans for the labyrinth, but it looks like a medieval type design, though I’m not sure if it’s a 10 Circuit, 11 Circuit, or some different variation. I didn’t think to check my pedometer when I started, so I’m not sure just how long the circuitous path is, but it took several minutes to walk (and I only did the walk in; leaving, I didn’t follow the path).

Then I also had to take a picture of one of my favorite objects in the park. I don’t get that far from home walking the dog (last week I tried walking farther than usual and she got so hot she lay down and refused to move). But if we ever get to the arboretum together, I’ll have to take her here:hydrant


Wish I could take pictures like these

April 4, 2013

Sometimes I carry my camera with me and daydream about having a chance to take a photo like one of these. A few of these don’t require precise timing, just seeing an opportunity and waiting to take the picture when things line up just right. But some of the others are just luck, to have the camera pointing in that direction at the right time. And some are no doubt a combination of being ready with the camera and taking advantage of a spectacular opportunity.

I’ll take my camera with me when I travel this weekend. (I’m going on a business trip.) And maybe I’ll be lucky. And if I get some good shots, even if they’re nothing like the ones I linked to above, I’ll share them here.

Night photography

July 5, 2012

I didn’t have night photography in mind when I bought my camera. (If I wanted to do really good night photography, I’d need to spend a lot more than I did.) But when I browsed through the features listed in the user manual, I noticed a section on low-light conditions. I made a mental note to try it out sometime.

Last night I took my younger son to see the annual Independence Day fireworks show at the riverfront. I’ve tried to take pictures of fireworks before, but with little success. Now that I have a digital camera that can be switched into manual mode, I thought I might do better. I had checked ahead of time to find out recommended settings, and I remembered to take my tripod (a GorillaPod that can hold its place firmly on the arm of a camp chair).

Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought to practice actually changing the manual settings, and in the dark I couldn’t figure out what buttons to press. (But I found the one for timed delay to allow me to get in my own picture. Several times.) So I had to settle for letting the camera determine the settings. The pictures still came out much better than my previous attempts to capture exploding fireworks. (Last year I used video mode and extracted a few frames. The color was good but the resolution was not.)

Since I didn’t buy this for night photography, I didn’t think about whether a cable release was available. Even with the tripod, the pressure of my finger on the shutter release was enough to cause movement visible in most of the photos from last night. (The trails of light show the downward arc of the firework fragments, but also another small movement at right angles to that arc, presumably from movement of the camera.)

Apparently a cable release is not available, even though the camera clearly is designed with the possibility of low-light photography in mind. (There is even a Fireworks setting in there somewhere, though I’ll have to peruse the manual – which is on CD only – more closely to find it.) However, I have read online about making a DIY cable release that uses the camera’s USB port – I just might try it out.

I still won’t be able to get the kind of quality seen in these beautiful examples of night photography. But they have me thinking about the possibilities.

How the ball bounces

June 5, 2012

Driving to work this morning, I noticed a tennis ball lying in the middle of the street. I began to imagine a child’s guessing game: It’s round (an orange?), greenish yellow (a Golden Delicious apple?), and it bounces. I wondered if that last clue would put me on the right track or if I’d be stuck thinking about fruit and trying to think of one that would bounce.

What makes a ball bounce, I wondered, while a ripe piece of fruit will more likely go splat. A ball is made of bouncy material, of course, and a fruit is not. But that doesn’t actually explain anything, it just identifies an object’s composition as the factor that determines bounciness.

But what actually happens, from the point of view of physics, when a round object hits the ground, that makes some of them bounce and not others? My first thought was that a ball can partially flatten where it hits, then that part recovers its normal shape and pushes itself off. A ripe piece of fruit flattens but can’t get its round shape back.

Read the rest of this entry »

My winning photo

May 16, 2012

I was pleased, but not all that surprised that one of my photos won our department’s photo contest in the Nature category. Not that I’m such a great photographer, but this one shot did come out remarkably well. What surprised me was the title given to it by the contest coordinator: Storm. The Sunday afternoon when I took it was cloudy, but the rain had been over for several hours, and the skies were clearing as I stood in the park looking for a good place to point my camera.

The scene was not nearly as dark as it appears in the photograph. The trees in the background were various shades of green, and occasionally I could see people cross the bridge (lost in darkness here, but it formed the horizon in my view). If my camera had had manual controls over exposure, and I had known how to use them, I would have tried to lighten up the scene. And perhaps I would have gotten a washed-out picture with no chance of winning a contest. (The contest rules prohibited enhancing the photos.)

I looked up some information on taking good nature photographs, It recommends waiting for “dramatic skies.” And “to capture drama, you need to look for the sun peeping out of the clouds and backlighting them.” I had taken another photo at the same time, facing in the opposite direction. It has all the color and detail that the first photo lacks – but none of its drama. The bottom half looks pretty good, in my opinion, but the top is washed-out and dull. I didn’t bother even submitting it for the contest.

I was a bit disappointed that my entry in the “Other” category didn’t win. When I first saw the array of smiling pink Abuelita Rosa dolls at Walmart, I decided the scene was just crying out for a bit of contrast. I would have settled for any dark, sinister character in a box the right size, but I was lucky – after a few minutes of searching up and down aisles in the toy department, I found just the sort of plush Darth Vader I had in mind.

But my “Toy Shelves” lost to a co-worker’s “Tea Kettle.”

What the camera can’t capture

July 5, 2011

Yesterday I got to do something I hadn’t been able to do for a few years – sit and watch the July 4th parade. When my son was a Cub Scout, I always had to walk with him and his pack, helping hand out ice pops to the Scouts to hand out to the children along the parade route. Now that he is a Boy Scout in a troop that does not walk in the parade (only one troop in town was in yesterday’s parade, and that was the one sponsored by the Salvation Army, which always has a significant presence in the parade), we got to sit (in the shade!) and watch the parade go by.

I tried to take lots of pictures, but there’s a lot that the camera can’t capture. It can’t capture the sense of being part of something important as everyone gets out of their lawn chairs and camp chairs when the color guard approaches with the American flag. (Besides, taking a picture at that moment didn’t seem like a good way to show my son how to honor the flag.) It can’t capture – at least not effectively – the exuberance of the Liberian immigrants who as much danced as walked in the parade, showing how glad they are to be living in the United States.

In a narrow one-way street (though I found it amusing to see in my photos a ONE WAY sign clearly pointing in the opposite direction from the parade’s movement), I couldn’t back up far enough to get good wide-angle shots without having trees and spectators block my view. And there was just no way to get a shot that showed all of the Kraken’s enormous body, pulled on a trailer by the Search & Rescue team. (If you missed my earlier post about the Monster of Muscatine, we have a large pink visitor in town, recently seen in the library’s upper story and then on top of the drugstore.)

There were a lot of floats, most of them depicting Abraham Lincoln and cannons (and stacks of cannonballs, presumably round black balloons). I had assumed that the theme for this year’s parade must have something to do with the Sesquicentennial, but then along came a float decorated as a gigantic pool table (representing, naturally, a local pool hall). The balls appear to be soccer balls (volleyballs?) painted to look like billiard balls. I did my best to get some shots of the guys who walked alongside taking shots with their cue sticks, but I would have had to be at a second story window with a really good zoom lens to get the most effective (camera) shot.

There were people who must have been getting very hot, especially the one in the Dalmatian costume (advertising Happy Joe’s Pizza), and another dressed as a turtle. Then there were those who probably stayed a lot cooler – and very wet. They were part of a float for a local construction company, demonstrating that their roofing materials could handle a lot of water. I decided that my camera would not like to get close enough to them to get a good picture.

Sometimes, when the gap between groups extended over a block, I sat and watched the other people watching the parade. The children all seemed to be having a great time – except when candy was thrown nearby and they didn’t get any. I tried to remember back to parades during my childhood, and what I thought about as the parade went by. Did I have any idea what it meant to celebrate the freedom we enjoy in the United States? I remember having a small flag to wave – did I have any idea what it meant? Do these children? (Do their parents?)

The climax of any town’s July 4th celebration is the fireworks, and dusk (the officially designated starting time) found us, as usual, sitting at the riverfront, waiting. I had taken the trouble to look up the definition of dusk and the time it would come, but as usual the fireworks didn’t start for at least another twenty minutes. I don’t get down to the riverfront all that often, but I don’t think there’s any time I’ve been there that it’s quite as crowded as July 4th, and as full of children running carefree (some of them having a great time getting wet in the fountain). You read about how parents are so overprotective of children these days, but I didn’t see much of that – perhaps the overprotective ones stay home.

My son, as usual, pronounced these the best fireworks he’s ever seen. He wasn’t sure whether beautiful was the right word for them, or just pretty, but they certainly were fun to watch. Even more fun, I discovered, to realize that I could take pictures of them by setting my camera to video mode, then later extract the frames I liked best. These fall far short of the impressive display we saw in person, but I did find satisfaction in getting the colored reflection on the river.  

Titles are important

June 18, 2011

I hope the title of this post interested you. I hope you wondered why I think titles are important. Maybe you wondered what kind of titles I’m talking about.

I’m not talking about job titles. I can’t say I’ve never cared about job titles, because there was one time when I was an Accounting Systems Coordinator, and I wanted a job title that made it clear that I worked with computers, not accounting. (At the time, my position of computer operator/training/troubleshooter/programmer/etc. belonged to the accounting department because at one time that’s all the computer was used for.) I was much happier as a Computer Operations Specialist, even if my job duties didn’t change any.

I’m also not talking about hereditary titles, academic titles, or social titles. At one time I cared very much about earning my Master of Arts degree, but the accomplishment seemed much less after I had achieved it (like many other things in life). I also was pleased when I went from being Miss Hart to Mrs. Evans, not because I cared much about the Miss or Mrs. in front of my name, but because the change in my last name represented becoming part of my husband’s family.

The kind of titles I’m thinking about are the ones that get you to read a book or go to a movie. Or read a blog post. I spend a fair amount of time thinking up titles for some of my blog posts. (The easy ones are when I review books or movies and just indicate what it is I read or saw.) I don’t know how often the title actually influences whether someone reads a post or not, but I have to assume it has some effect.

Read the rest of this entry »

Earth as Art

November 27, 2010

 I think this would be a cool picture to hang on the wall, even if only as a poster. (Why is it that only children and teens are expected to put posters on their walls?) Like the other images in this series, it looks more like the work of an imaginative artist than of a satellite capturing images of the earth.

Of course, since these Landsat 7 scenes were “created for aesthetic purposes rather than scientific interpretation,” I suppose you could say they were the work of an imaginative artist. There is little information about how the images were made, though I assume that it involves some way to select what color or colors show up. (I happen to particularly like the shade of blue in the image referenced above.)

This image of the Great Salt Desert in Iran looks like someone had fun swirling different shades of brown and blue paint. This one in black and white reminds me of some fantasy-themed drawings. Some are clearly recognizable as part of our planet; others could as easily (to my eye) be microscopic views as those taken from far above earth.

I’m used to seeing satellite pictures filled with shades of green, blue, and red. But I’m curious what creates an image full of yellow and crimson, or orange, black, and white. Or how about this mostly black and grey image, with a bright streak of red running across it? 

I’ve always enjoyed seeing photos of ordinary items turned into art by the photographer’s eye. Someday I hope to have the time and opportunity to create some myself – but probably never from the satellite”s-eye view.

Bored? Check out Bored Panda

September 26, 2010

Boredpanda.com claims to be the only magazine for pandas. I would hardly dispute their claim, but among their 300.000 – 600.000 monthly visitors, I think there must be quite a few non-pandas. I found Bored Panda via First Thoughts, where blogger Joe Carter posted a link to 50 Most Extraordinary Churches of the World.

I happen to have an interest in seeing all sorts of church buildings. Visiting them in person is better, but seeing pictures on the internet is still pretty good, especially in the case of some of these highly pleasing visual images. I have actually visited two of the fifty, La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, and Chapel in the Rock in Arizona.

Near the bottom of the page, I found a link to another set of photos, this one showing familiar objects made unfamiliar by magnification through a microscope. Some I’ve seen photos of before, such as red blood cells, snowflakes, and a fly’s eye. I’m not too surprised to see how bad a split end (of a human hair) looks close up, and I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by the look of copy paper. In part II, the surface of the tongue and of shark skin were very interesting.

So next time you’re bored, you know where to go. Whether you like to eat bamboo or not.

Clouds over Córdoba

September 15, 2010

I remember Córdoba as one of the most beautiful cities I visited in Spain, but I don’t remember a sight like this one. I enjoyed many cloudless days during my stay in Spain, with the sky a wonderful blue backdrop for my photos of white houses, windmills, and castles. But a breathtaking view like this one, photographed by Isaac Gutiérrez Pascual four days ago, requires the presence of storm clouds.

I wonder sometimes just how many thousands of pictures a photographer has to take to get one like this. I chased the sunset the day I visited La Coruña (in northwest Spain), trying to get a shot of the sun sinking into the Atlantic Ocean. I got some pictures, but nothing spectacular. I don’t know how much it’s a matter of luck, skill, or photographic equipment. No doubt it has a lot to do with time – if I had spent a month or two there, going back day after day, I might well have gotten something more impressive.

And of course one has to be paying attention to notice the opportunities, and have the camera ready to capture the moment. As the explanatory paragraph at APOD points out, shortly after the picture was taken the birds and clouds were gone, and Venus and the moon had set.

On the other hand, there’s the risk of being so focused on trying to find great photographic shots that you miss life going on around you. Once I had kids, I had to shift from taking pictures for the sake of pictures to taking snapshots to remember special moments in the boys’ lives. Sometimes I have to get the camera out, but mostly I try to keep it put away, so I can share time with them instead of staying out of the frame with my eye behind a viewfinder.

But I’m glad Isaac Gutiérrez Pascual had his eye on the sky and his camera ready on Saturday, to share a gorgeous photo like this with the world.