Archive for August, 2013

As always an excellent photo challenge, this time focusing on the sea/ocean and what it means to us.

Wing and water

The first time I ever saw an ocean was from about 20,000 feet. (I’m just guessing; I was a kid.) My family was traveling to California on our one and only “airplane vacation.”  I was about thirteen as I stared out of the plane window at this immense, seemingly never-ending expanse of water. As we got closer I saw that it was dotted with little boats that I eventually learned were some of the very largest ships in the world. I’m pretty sure that during parts of our flight we were higher than we were when I first saw the Pacific.  Since I peered out of the window for most of the trip, it’s likely that I was able to see further than I could when I first saw the ocean.  But the scale of the Pacific dwarfed everything because it was just one thing – a unitary whole. In contrast, flying overland meant seeing mile after mile of clearly defined sections and quarters broken up by roads and cities, by long miles of fields with different colors and irrigation circles, speckled by lakes and divided by rivers and mountain ranges. In other words, the rest of the world was made of parts, but the ocean was just one thing – and that one thing was vast. While I knew from geography class that what I could see of the ocean even from way up in that plane was just a bit of the earth, I think it was then that I first really appreciated how big our planet is and how small we really are.  It was not too many years after that when I started hearing that the oceans were so big that we could dump our waste in them forever or fish this or that particular species as rapidly as possible without any problems. I remember thinking, yes, they are vast, but there are many of us and we are growing fast and if we assume we can’t do any harm, we are taking a big risk because the size of the oceans also means we don’t know much about them yet.

Okay. It is true. I don’t own anything pink and it isn’t even remotely close to my favorite color. So as usual the photo challenge — this time to think pink — is challenging (smile).

Magnolia Blossom - May 09, 2013 - 0088Magnolia Blossom - May 09, 2013 - 0088 - Magnolia

Fortunately we have a magnolia tree in our back yard and it has beautiful pink blossoms. This spring after a rain shower I photographed the blossoms. Here are two of the photos for the “pink” challenge.

Backyard Flowers - May 09, 2013 - 0089 (Magnolia Blossom) - Magnolia


This week’s Ese’s Weekly Shoot & Quote Challenge – Open, brought to mind how people’s minds (sorry) are becoming more closed as opposed to more open. Here is a quote from Carl Sagan  about having an open mind.

At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes–an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense.– Carl Sagan

I hope you enjoy the photo and how it fits with Sagan’s quote as well as with “open” in some other ways. I talk more about the Sagan quote below.

Daydreaming of Home - Truth and Dreans

Sagan is speaking about the importance of an open mind and at its essence he is describing the scientific method. It is a tool that uses openness to new ideas (hypotheses) to find things out about the world. It also uses skepticism about discoveries when they are claimed (an example is the requirement for verification or repeatability of discoveries). What Sagan is talking about is basically the process of investigating the world that has created/made/discovered a great deal of what it takes to allow you to read and view this post via the Internet on your computer at this very moment. The big thing science probably didn’t bring us is, of course, you, and I for one appreciate your visit!

Truck on the Highway

This was a tough shot to get although it certainly doesn’t look very hard since most of it is blurry and out of focus. Here is the story followed by a wonky discussion that strays off into the uses of “blur” and ends with a two nice photos, one of which is both in focus and excitingly blurry (the wonky stuff is really wonky so I understand if you skip it but at least check out the photos below).

Coming home from our recent trip to North Dakota, I was able to experiment with motion and focus but in an unusual way — I wanted to get a photo that captured the truck’s motion while both I (in a car my wife was driving – thanks Sweetie) and the truck were moving down the highway towards each other. This is as close as I was able to get to what I was “shooting” for – a truck that was at least partially in focus, but also seemed in motion relative to both itself and to me.

Wonky Discussion

I got to thinking about posting my experiment because of this week’s weekly photo challenge, which is about “focus.” Focus was of course one of the primary problems facing me in getting any shot like this. I took this particular shot along a divided highway with a Sigma telephoto lens set at a 210mm focal length. The truck was about 150 feet away. Because I wanted as much depth of field as humanly possible while not freezing the truck’s motion, I had been experimenting with a wide range of aperture and shutter speed settings to find out what would work. The details of this shot: 1/30th sec.; f/18; ISO 400; aperture priority. This gave me a depth of field (or “DOF“) of 121 ft. (beginning at 111 ft. and ending at 232 ft.)  You might wonder about going to f/11. The problem is that it almost halves the DOF (to 70 ft.) while moving the shutter speed to somewhere between 1/60th and 125th of a second. All things being equal, an aperture of f/16 (DOF of 104 ft.) would have been a better choice, but water under the bridge (or perhaps over the highway). Given the relative closing speed between our two vehicles (I am assuming 120 miles per hour), the truck moved through the Circle of Confusion (the space that defines the depth of field) in 5/8th of a second. Since I couldn’t mount a tripod where I was sitting in the car, I had to hand hold the camera. While the Sigma lens has good to very good optical stabilization, my hands are not very steady and that plus the car’s movement introduced more complexity into getting this photo in focus and without unintentional blur.


The other thing I wanted to see as the truck moved into and out of the Circle of Confusion was some blurring representing its motion. Blur is a relative of focus (e.g., when something is intentionally or unintentionally out of focus because an object is outside of the lens’ Circle of Confusion). Blur is often introduced into a photo by camera motion, which typically occurs when a photographer uses a shutter speed that is too slow for the photographer to hold the camera steadily. When blur is intentionally introduced into a photo, the most common reason is to impart a sense of motion to an object in a photo.

When using blur to indicate motion, the photographer is usually in a more or less fixed position and follows the speedy object (from a marathon runner to a Formula One race car intending to either freeze or nearly freeze the runner or car or whatever against a background that blurs. Getting the object in focus while the background is visibly blurred is the key to imparting motion/action to the object. As an example of where you don’t see that background and thus don’t appreciate the motion of an object in a photo, take a photo of a passenger jet in flight. You know that the plane is traveling very rapidly since it is flying, but if the photo of it is against a blue undifferentiated sky (no clouds), for all you really know, the plane could be parked up in the sky motionless. See another example of what I mean here:

Minot Air Show - 1122 - July 04, 2012 (Blue) - 00045

One way to get around this is to show the plane(es) with contrails or artificial smoke, something that is often done at an airshow as shown in the photo below (both photos are of the Canadian Snowbirds, the Royal Air Force’s aerobatic flight performance team).

Minot Air Show - 839 - July 04, 2012-Edit

Finally, blur can be added artificially (here via Filter Forge) to what is otherwise an in focus photograph as shown in the two photos below.

Dad Bibow's Garden - July 24, 2013 - 09-Edit-Edit - Depth of Field - 2  Dad Bibow's Garden - July 24, 2013 - 09-Edit-Edit(Filtr Forge) - Depth of Field - 2

Bleeding Hearts  - May 08, 2013 - 0111 - Depth of Field - 1  Bleeding Hearts  - May 08, 2013 - 0113-2 - Depth of Field - 2

These two photos demonstrate how simply changing the aperture (and obviously the related shutter speed) and doing nothing else changes the depth of field around your selected focal point and will often change the focus of the entire photo by dramatically eliminating elements in the background that are unattractive.

The Manor

As always you have presented us with an interesting photo challenge with the word decadent and one that, while at first glance seems straight-forward, actually raises a whole host of not easily answered questions (of course that is just me being me).

“Decadent” essentially means immorally self-indulgent. Caligula (Roman emperor, megalomaniac and overall very bad guy) would be considered the prototypical example of someone who plumbed the depths of decadence. By that standard, the owners of the Manor are Mother Theresa many times over.

This photo of a tiny bit of the Manor presents us with an example of what might be considered decadent by many. But is it? The owners, who I know, certainly made interesting decorating choices in a very large home, but they like to fill their available space. I wouldn’t consider them immoral, or at least no more so than any of us who somehow manage to live our lives keeping most of what we have while many millions of people around the world are in dire need (I am in the former group and have no moral justification for it).

So where do we draw the line of what is decadent or not (i.e., immoral self-indulgence)? Is it at the extravagance of the Manor or something less, like having indoor plumbing with hot running water? (An unheard of luxury for most of the world’s population.) How about reliable electricity or a safe, reliable and relatively inexpensive automobile for the family? Having any of the foregoing would put you at or near the top of the food chain in most of the world. Are we decadent because these things are so commonplace for many of us that we don’t even think about them. If the truth be told, perhaps the most decadent thing we do might be eating meat (which I do) especially meat produced by animals fed by grains which are grown in fields that might otherwise be put into production for food for people (guilty again).

I am not an activist on these issues and never have been, but as I said above, when you really think about it, what is decadent is not all that simple of a question to answer especially in a world where many people do not even have food security for themselves and their family.