Monday, December 31, 2007

Interestingness in my images

Interestingness in my images
1. citrus goodness
2. Beauty
3. A spring morning at the lake
4. The Eye (North Window, aglow)
5. Hop On the Green Bus
6. Fibonacci sequence?
7. Magic Moment in Maine
8. The sky's afire
9. Gaillardia

According to Flickr, that is.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is the first mantra that is thrust upon anyone even remotely interested in the art of photography.

The rule states that an image can be divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines. The four points formed by the intersections of these lines can be used to align features in the photograph. Proponents of this technique claim that aligning a photograph with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the photo than simply centering the feature would.
Take a look at this photograph I took several years ago in Cape Ann, MA.

The horizon sits in the middle of the picture and gives it a very static feeling, when in fact the setting sun has cast a wonderful glow and there is gentle movement in the water. A simple crop that places the horizon near the top of the middle third instead of the middleat the bottom of the upper third dramatically improves the photograph.
With the grid

Without the grid

I used to have a strong preference to press the shutter on a perfectly composed image with ideal in-camera settings. One that does not need any touch up. But then I was introduced to photography greats like Man Ray. Man Ray was indeed ahead of his times. He used various techniques to deliver the effect he had in mind. He jumped through hoops to achieve the effect of solarization, which can be done in a few keystrokes today using Photoshop or Gimp. If I had to use Man Ray's techniques to produce this picture, it would be prohibitively expensive and not worth the time. I did this in less than 15 minutes, from actually taking the image, processing it and uploading it. I have since given up any such pretensions and now, I do crop my images, adjust the levels and apply several post processing techniques. And especially so when I understood that adjusting the settings on my camera before taking the picture is actually in-camera processing. If I were to shoot in RAW, then everything would be post-processing. That is not to say that it is very exhilarating to find a perfect image coming out of the camera.

But, back to rules...

Like every rule, this Rule of Thirds also begs to be broken with an image where the subject or the focus of the photo is in the center. And, it's very simple to create an image like that. But to break the rule and create an image that's good? That's the tough part.

I've been looking for opportunities to break this rule and I think I made a reasonable attempt with my effort for CLICK: Noodles.

bulleye with grid


What do you think?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fall Surprises

Found this in one of my flower beds while cleaning up the yard last weekend.

It was about 3 inches in diameter. And hollow inside.

I've never seen a mushroom like this before.

Fall is full of surprises!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

In search of gold

According to Mike of 7 News / The Denver Channel, "this weekend and next weekend will be the peak time for viewing fall color. So what are you waiting for? Get outside and enjoy Colorado's gold splendor." Who are we to argue with Mike?! Besides, I love the list of short and long drives that he has collated! So we set out earlier this morning with #2 of Mike's short drives as our ultimate destination. In search of Colorado Gold.

From Louisville, we drove through Boulder to Ward via Lee Hill Drive. Yes! Ward, the town with old dilapidated trucks and broken down cars. I quickly took as many pictures as I could - most of which will appear on my Flickr photostream soon, I promise - and headed further up C-72 to meet C-7 on the Peak to Peak Highway. The views are gorgeous but there were only a few splotches of color along the way, as rock and pines line the route. It also did not help that my beloved drives at or over the speed limit, making it difficult for me to say: Stop! I want to take pictures of that...whizzzzz! It's gone. Forget it!

By the time I saw the lovely church, it too was just a memory.

But, we hold our breath each time we see this for the first time. No matter how many times we have seen it before.

As you can see, the sky was the beautiful blue that we are so used to in Colorado and nary a cloud. We stopped for some spectacular views of Longs Peak and then turned off on Marys Lake Road.

Marys Lake was the best route into town for us as our insides had developed a longing for the best sandwiches in Estes Park. At The Other Side, of course. The wind was whipping around by then but that did not deter us from going higher in elevation!

We entered Rocky Mountain National Park to find that Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in the US which tops off at about 12,183 feet, was closed at Many Parks Curve. The storm that brought down branches in our area had left hail, ice and snow at the higher elevations, making it unsafe for motorists. (Trail Ridge is not closed for the season yet but Old Fall River Road is, much to Medha's relief.) I felt really bad for the guy who was headed for Lake Granby as he had to head back down to I-70. But only for a minute as he was sure to catch some Colorado Gold. Mike had said...

We headed first to Moraine Park. Just one clump of golden aspens and some elk way deep in the meadows. Having gone through some of the pictures uploaded on the 7News web site, I expected the thick grove of aspens that welcomes you to Moraine Park to be glistening in the sun. But, to my surprise, it was mostly green! I think it will be afire by next week though. Not willing to give up yet, we headed for Sprague Lake - inspired as I was by these pictures. I am sure Bear Lake would have been very scenic but we didn't want to deal with the crowds that flock to that gorgeous piece of landscape. Sprague had its share of crowds but it was tolerable. And it was here, that I took my first memorable picture of a beautful golden aspen.

We also saw a large elk bull right by the parking lot. He seemed shy and wandered away quickly. Several of us wanted to follow him but his antlers were larger than all of ours put together, so we went towards the lake instead. We watched the trout try to swim upstream from the lake back to where they came from. Or was it the lake that they came from?! A bird fished alongside fishermen who cast their bait patiently into the lake. It was all very wonderful. It soon became magical when we chanced upon this...


The ducks were doing their best to seek shelter in the reeds from the blustery wind. They fluffed up their feathers, screwed up their eyes and hunkered down.

The lake glistened and well, this is as good as it got! Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining!

We really should have headed home next but Trail Ridge always beckons, even if it is only up to Many Parks Curve. And it never fails to deliver because look what we saw next! An elk bull with missing antlers!

And further down, another bull elk! They were literally coming out of the woodwork onto the roads!

We took a final pit stop at The Village Store in Estes Park...

...and we drove home via Lyons (Hwy 36) with big smiles on our faces, feeling very good about our day.

We didn't see much color but you know what? I think we found Colorado Gold.

If you would like to re-publish this Photo Essay or publish any of my images from this blog or from my Flickr photostream, please get in touch with me by email polarmate [at] gmail [dot] com.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

High Key - Cracked Egg

High Key is a style of lighting for film, television, or photography that aims to reduce the contrast ratio present in the scene. This was originally done partly for technological reasons, since early film and television did not deal well with high contrast ratios, but now is used to create an upbeat mood.

I was first introduced to the concept of High Key as part of an assignment on the Flickr Group Take a Class with Dave and Dave.

My submission to the assignment was a black and white high key of a cornflower.
Cornflower High Key
My camera at that time was my 5 year old Sony S85, which Medha now thinks is her camera and is doing a rather great job with.

My favorite submissions from other participants in that group were this, this and this. You can see all the submissions here.

I haven't been very successful with high key in color, therefore I am rather pleased with this attempt. What do you think?

In fact, so happy am I that I am sending it as an entry for Jai and Bee's first themed photo event, Click, where surprise! surprise! the theme is Eggs!

I knew what I wanted to do but I didn't quite know how to stand up the egg without the prop showing through. Any guesses on what I used? My husband - oh! is he out of the doghouse again or what?! ;-) - came up with the solution. What would I do without him?! Cos I was close to giving up.

I used a plain sheet of discarded drawing paper as the background and curved it up a bit to eliminate all the mess that lay on my dining table. I also tried to do as much in-camera editing by setting the exposure and shutter speed so that post-processing using Adobe Photoshop was limited to cropping, minor adjusting of levels and removal of some inadvertent drops of water that dampened the background paper as they were added to the cracked egg to make it flow over.

Camera: Sony DSLR A100
Lens: Kit lens 3.5-5.6/18-70 (birthday's coming up! Need to drop hints starting now! But I have to admit that for a kit lens, this lens rocks!)
Focal length: 70mm
Aperture: f6.3
Exposure time: 1/30
ISO: 400
White Balance: Sunny
Metering Mode: Spot
Post processing: Adobe CS

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Utah: Where the Ancients Once Roamed

On the spur of the moment - a euphemism for "we took too long to decide and got the last available room" - we drove to Moab, Utah for the long weekend. We pulled a reluctant Medha out of school - yes, she's crazy like that - and headed for the oven that was the high desert of Utah, where surface temperatures are 20-25F more than the air temperature. Our neighbors hid their smiles when we told them we were going. It was 100F in Moab all weekend long but we were armed with all the frozen water in the world and we had an incredible weekend.

The land formations are so unique and mind-blowing that the whole weekend was akin to a very spiritual experience, not unlike the one at the Grand Canyon. Where you are looking at millions of years of history of the Earth. Where it is driven home just how insiginficant man is. If there is a God, then this is the closest thing to being with God.

On a good day, Arches National Park, near Moab, Utah, is just 5 and half hours away from Louisville, Colorado. The park is filled with sandstone formations sculpted by the forces of nature - sun, wind, snow, rain and rock upheavals due to an unstable underground salt bed - into fins, balanced rocks and over 2000 arches.

The North Window

The Windows section has two large arches that frame the vistas behind them. They were a dull red till the sun broke out from behind the clouds. When this happens, the glowing landscape comes alive, draws you further into its magic as the play of light continues, and one can't but help wonder what the ancients made of this.

Sun Pillar at the Turret Arch

As the colors danced in the skies, I saw my first sun pillar emerge from the setting sun. This was turning into a spiritual experience for me and we had only just arrived there. Many of the ancients, especially the agrarian tribes, worshipped the sun. I wonder how they interpreted the sun pillars that shot into the evening skies.

Delicate Arch

Utah's most famous symbol, found everywhere and now prominently on vehicle license plates.

Edward Abbey, noted naturalist and author, wrote this: "There are several ways of looking at Delicate Arch. Depending on your preconceptions you may see the eroded remnants of a sandstone fin, a giant engagement ring cemented in rock, a bow-legged pair of petrified cowboy chaps, a triumphal arch for a procession of angels, an illogical freak, a happening.... If Delicate Arch has any significance it lies, I will venture, in the power of the odd and unexpected to startle the senses and surprise the mind out of their ruts of habit, to compel us into a reawakened awareness of the wonderful-that which is full of wonder."

The spirituality of this arch hits home when you consider that the same geological and natural forces that made this arch will also destroy it in time to come.

Balanced Rock

Balanced Rocks can be seen throughout Arches National Park. This Balanced Rock is the largest and is said to be the size of 3 schoolbuses! The caprock is made up of hard Slick rock whereas the pedestal is made of the softer Dewey Bridge mudstone. The softer pedestal weathers away more quickly than the resistant Slick rock. Eventually this formation will collapse due to the faster eroding Dewey Bridge.

Utah Juniper

Limited by lack of water, shrubs and trees must disperse in the desert to survive. Once established, these desert plants are tenacious and their roots can split rocks in their search for nutrients. Desert plants are smaller than their non-desert counterparts; their leaves furled or spiny in order to reduce surface area through which water is lost. A 30 year old tree may only be a few feet tall. The Utah juniper is often called the classic desert tree. Its twisting, often-dead branches speak vividly of life with scarce water. A juniper is known to stop the flow of fluids to its outer branches in order to give the tree a better chance for survival. Scale-covered leaves and bluish, waxy-coated berries help the tree conserve moisture. The juniper berries are actually closed cones and whether you believe me or not, the Visitor Guide to Arches National Park says "they're actually tiny pinecones". Having been chastised for repeating that, I make sure I drop the word pine!

It's hard to believe but there are wildflowers of beautiful colors in the desert. The ancients dug up roots for water and knew exactly which berries to eat and which to leave for the birds. They hunted rabbits with long ears, that reflected the harsh sun and conserved water. They, too, like the plants adapted to the desert conditions. Watch my Flickr photostream for ad nauseum pictures of this trip. As of writing this, I still have a whole bunch left to upload.

Ancient Petroglyphs

Panels of petroglyphs dating back to between 600 and 1300AD line the scenic byway 279. These are etchings or peckings into the red sandstone depicting warriors, mountain sheep, bison, deer, horsemen, snakes, rivers and geometric designs. Archaeologists believe that the older panels were the work of the Southern San Rafael Fremont, and included animals, lines of hand-holding men, triangular-bodied figures with weapons like spears and shields. The more modern petroglyphs are the work of the Ute, with less attention to detail and less weathering than those of the Fremont.

Dead Horse Point

Dead Horse Point is a spectacular natural corral that towers 2000ft over the Colorado River as it goosenecks through the landscape of pinnacles and buttes it has carved over millions of years. In a state park by the same name, it is about 40 miles from Moab.

Dead Horse Point is on a mesa or plateau at an altitude of 6000ft. We were quite comfortable breathing there as we live at 5500ft.

"From the point, layers of geologic time may be viewed, revealing 300 million years of the Earth's geologic history. While standing on the canyon rim, 8000ft of geologic strata is visible looking from the peaks of the 12000ft La Sal Mountains to the river below. These rock layers were deposited over the eons by oceans, fresh water and wind, as well as igneous events" (From the Visitor Guide to Dead Horse Point State Park).

The name has arisen from a legend that cowboys would herd wild mustangs that roamed the mesa into this natural corral, linked to the main plateau by a neck only 30 yards wide, and then close off the neck with brush and branches. They would then select the horses they wanted. On one occasion, they left the horses they did not want corralled on the waterless point and these magnificient horses died of thirst looking down at the Colorado River, 2000ft below.

Green River and Canyonlands

Green River is one of Colorado River's main tributaries that begins in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. It is known to gooseneck for over 5 miles while moving ahead only 1 linear mile.

"Evidence of Utah’s ancient inhabitants can be found in the Green River Utah Basin, which was once home to the Fremont Culture. The Fremont Native Americans were a semi-nomadic people, who were known for their distinctive pottery, figurines and rock art which can be found on canyon walls and in overhangs throughout the river basin. They inhabited the area from 600 A.D. to 1200A.D. Years later, the Utes would occupy the Green River Utah Basin. Today, they still inhabit the area. Their reservation is in the Uinta Basin." (From Destination 360)

View a Slideshow of these images and click through to the photo page to View them Large on Black.

If you would like to re-publish this Photo Essay or publish any of my images from this blog or from my Flickr photostream, please get in touch with me by email polarmate [at] gmail [dot] com.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


On our hike to Ouzel Falls, we saw trees that live literally on the edge. It's almost the norm here in Colorado, especially given the terrain. Here's a picture of a pine tree spreading its roots to survive.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Flower Fest - W for White Silene

Originally a native of Europe, I found these teeny white campions on a cold late summer morning in Tiny Town, Colorado, which is at about 8500 ft in altitude. It can be an invasive weed, depending on where it is found.

White campion or silene latifolia has male and female plants. Below is a female plant with female flowers.

And, the plant to the left in the picture below is a male plant with flowers.

White campion contains saponins which are toxic but since they are poorly absorbed by our body, they don't cause much harm. When the root is simmered in hot water, it can be used as a soap substitute for washing clothes.

The plant grows up to 3ft in height and the flowers are between 1/2 inch to 1 inch in diameter. It flowers between June and September.

Flower Fest - the A-Z of FlowersThis is my entry for the letter W in the Flower Fest - the A - Z of Flowers.

Flower Fest is the brainchild of Nature & Me and Sree. Every two weeks, the focus will be on a letter of the English alphabet. The current letter is V. I am submitting photographs of flowers as my entries.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007


We hiked to Ouzel Falls (9450 ft) from the Wild Basin Trailhead (8500 ft) this weekend. It is 2.7 miles to the falls and the hike is rather moderate till Calypso Cascades Falls, after which it is a steady climb to Ouzel Falls. The next series of posts will have pictures of wildflowers, hillsides, waterfalls and the gorgeous vistas along the way. Ouzel Falls are on the east side of the Continental Divide.

Here come the mushrooms...

We thought it was either a small frisbee or a plastic lid that someone had carelessly tossed away. It was almost 8 inches in diameter and a glorious orange-red.

We spied this curious collection of fungi when we stopped for a brief respite.

Toadstool was what came to mind when I saw this one.

Some more without a stem. Another view of these mushrooms.

If you can identify these, please leave me a comment with more information.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A walk around the yard

A walk around the yard today revealed the first of my rudbeckia blooms. They're small and need to be transplanted and they look like some bug is rather happy with them, too!

And a rose bud. Not enough to make gulkand but a rose nevertheless!

Some mint that has flowered. Not a great picture but the blooms are every teeny and this is without a macro lens.

Some lingering sedum blooms

Pink delosperma that is threatening to take over the little bed

A bee having its fill on my Russian Sage that is bending over with the weight of the teeny blooms

And my mums are flowering early this year. They have barely grown some leaves.

That pesky but pretty mountain harebell pops its head everywhere

And some other new and unwelcome visitors this year. I didn't notice any last year. They are growing in a carpet of grass, weeds and spent Russian sage blooms.

I'm happy! This is so much better than last year!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Flower Fest - V for Verbascum Thapsus

Yet another noxious weed. This time, I knew it was a weed. It had to be! I found it at the Walker Ranch on one those special days in fall when they open it up to the public. The ranch, that is. The open space around the ranch is accessible to the public year round. We were just back from a cold camping trip in the mountains and we went under-dressed for what appeared to be a gorgeous day but with cold winds blowing from the mountains. My ears couldn't bear the cold wind anymore and I returned to the car, which had been warmed by the sun. When I looked up at the sky, this is what I saw:

So, of course, I had to hop out again and brave the wind...

Known as common mullein or great mullein, this weed can grow over 7 feet tall. A wet spring can result in leaves that are as long as 20 inches.

Long dried-up brown stalks are a common sight by late fall. This plant is not native to the US but is found all over the continental US!

Wikipedia notes that it has been used since ancient times as a remedy for skin, throat and breathing ailments. It has long had a medicinal reputation, especially as an astringent and emollient. It contains mucilage, several saponins, coumarin and glycosides. Dioscorides recommended it for diseases of the lung and it is nowadays widely available in health and herbal stores. Non-medical uses have included dyeing and making torches.

Flower Fest - the A-Z of FlowersThis is my entry for the letter V in the Flower Fest - the A - Z of Flowers.

Flower Fest is the brainchild of Nature & Me and Sree. Every two weeks, the focus will be on a letter of the English alphabet. The current letter is V. I am submitting photographs of flowers as my entries.

Tags: , ,

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Flower Fest - S for Snow-in-Summer

Last year I was looking for some attractive ground cover for my so-called attempt at a 'rock garden' when I chanced upon beautiful silvery gray-green foliage that came with the promise of white dainty blooms in early summer. It was only after I bought some that I found them growing wild at almost every corner of the trails I walked on! And needless to say, it's considered an invasive plant!

Snow-in-Summer or Cerastium tomentosum are perennials that reseed every year. They thrive in well-drained poor soil and are drought-tolerant. That explains why they grow so profusely around here!

They are called Snow-in-Summer because bloom profusely from late spring to early summer and the teeny white flowers look like a matt of white snow on the silvery foliage. I just have to be careful that it doesn't take over the entire bed!

Flower Fest - the A-Z of FlowersThis is my entry for the letter S in the Flower Fest - the A - Z of Flowers.

Flower Fest is the brainchild of Nature & Me and Sree. Every two weeks, the focus will be on a letter of the English alphabet. The current letter is S. I am submitting photographs of flowers as my entries.

Tags: , ,

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