Archive for the ‘Macro Photography’ Category

Wordless Wednesday: Morning Dew   13 comments

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Single-Image Sunday: the Mariposa Lily   Leave a comment

I’m going to start trying to use each Sunday to post single images, in posts that are word-scarce, especially compared with Friday’s photo how-to posts.

A beautiful flower of springtime in the drier semi-desert areas of eastern Washington, Oregon and adjacent Idaho is the Mariposa lily.

A beautiful flower of springtime in the drier semi-desert areas of eastern Washington, Oregon and adjacent Idaho is the Mariposa lily.

The beautiful mariposa lily is my favorite wildflower from the steppe regions of the Pacific Northwest where I live.  It blooms in late springtime, usually in single, tall flowers.  They look so delicate and easy for the wind to flatten (and the wind does blow strong in these parts).  But they are as dependable in eastern Oregon and Washington after spring rains as the smell of sagebrush.  Enjoy!

Note that this image is copyrighted and not available for free download without my permission, sorry.  Just click on it if you’re interested in it.  Once you are in the high-res. version, click “add this image to cart”.  It won’t be added to your cart right away.  Click the appropriate tab to be shown pricing options.  Please contact me if you have any questions, and thanks very much for your interest.

Friday Foto Talk: Bracketing   Leave a comment

The great monastery at Tangboche in Nepal's Khumbu region wakes to a spectacular morning.  A high contrast scene like this demands bracketing for exposure.

The great monastery at Tangboche in Nepal’s Khumbu region wakes to a spectacular morning. A high contrast scene like this demands bracketing for exposure.

This week let’s dive into this deceptively simple topic.  Bracketing is when you take three or more pictures of the same subject in an attempt to hedge your bets.  For example you might take one picture with your light meter dead center and the other two slightly under- and over-exposed.

There are two things about bracketing that are often misunderstood.  The first is that bracketing involves only adjusting exposure.  While this is the most common variable that is bracketed for, it’s by no means the only one.  Basically, you can bracket anything you vary during shooting.  I often bracket for depth of field when I am in aperture priority mode, for example.  More on this below.

Chili peppers dry on a windowsill in a teahouse high in a Himalayan village.  This image was bracketed for both exposure and depth of field (aperture).

Chili peppers dry on a windowsill in a teahouse high in a Himalayan village. This image was bracketed for both exposure and depth of field (aperture).

The second is the myth that with digital it is no longer necessary to bracket.  After all, modern photo processing software allows you to change what you need to change rather easily.  While this is true, it is also the wrong attitude to take.

You may choose not to bracket, but don’t do it because you think you can make the adjustment later on your computer.  This is a road you don’t want to go down.  Pretty soon you’ll be taking all sorts of short-cuts during capture, simply because you can “fix it in post”.  There are simply too many advantages to risk not getting your exposure (or aperture, etc.) the exact way you want it before doing any post-processing.  In fact, with digital there is every reason to bracket: you aren’t paying for film!

Men selling honey (miel) in Ensenada, Mexico pass the time in a card game.

Men selling honey (miel) in Ensenada, Mexico pass the time in a card game. This was bracketed for aperture, with f/5.6 chosen.

Let’s take one example.  You are shooting a high-contrast landscape, into a low sun.  You want to use just a single capture, so you slap a 2-stop graduated neutral density over the lens to bring the bright sky under control.  If you bracket exposure (by shooting three shots, one with no exposure compensation, one underexposed by a stop and one overexposed by a stop), you end up with captures that vary in foreground brightness.

A lonely corridor faces the sinking sun at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.  With contrast like this, bracketing will give you a variety of looks to choose from.

A lonely corridor faces the sinking sun at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. With contrast like this, bracketing will give you a variety of looks to choose from.

The sky, of course, will vary in brightness across your bracketed exposures too.  You will hopefully have one with no blinkies (the highlight warning that tells you that part is overexposed) to one that has limited areas blinking.  Later you might choose any of them based on factors such as how deep you want the shadows to be, and how much noise you can accept in the shadowed areas.  You’ll need to balance that with how easy it is to bring down the highlights in the sky via your software.  You have a lot more options if you have bracketed exposure.

Fall Creek Falls is an impressive waterfall in Washington's Cascade Range, here in full spring flood.

Fall Creek Falls, an impressive waterfall in Washington’s Cascade Range, is in full spring flood. With moving water, bracketing for shutter speed will pay off. With waterfalls, I use one second as the starting (middle) point and bracket around that.

Bear in mind you normally want to start with a slightly brighter image and bring your brightness down in post-processing.  If you do the opposite, always doing a lot of shadow-fill to brighten darker areas of your image, you will end up with noise.  Then you’ll need to either do significant noise reduction (which softens the image) or leave the dark areas darker than you wish, to hide the noise.  Bracketing for exposure will allow you to evaluate your choices using your bigger computer display at home, which also has a better histogram.  The image on your camera’s LCD is obviously not as good, and the histogram accessible on your camera is not as accurate as well.

Street food in a village square high up in the Guatemalan highlands includes unusual sweets.  Depth of field was a big variable here, so I bracketed for aperture.

Street food in a village square high up in the Guatemalan highlands includes unusual sweets. Depth of field was a big variable here, so I bracketed for aperture.

There is another advantage to bracketing for exposure.  Even if (like me) you will process the image as a single capture, trying to keep things as simple as possible, you still might want the option to combine multiple exposures later.  For example, when you are better at Photoshop or if you get an image that is so great that it’s worth more work, you might want to try hand-blending multiple exposures, layered together in Photoshop.  This can result in an image with more pleasing tones and contrasts.  If you have the multiple captures, you have the option.  It’s like having that extra sweater in your backpack on a hike.  You might not wear it but if you need it you’ll be very happy you had the foresight to bring it along.

Inside the Mayan ruins of Xpuhil in the southern Yucatan, Mexico.  With contrast like this, bracketing for a broad range of exposure will give you more chances to get a usable image.  You could also try HDR with a bracketed set.

Inside the Mayan ruins of Xpuhil in the southern Yucatan, Mexico. With contrast like this, bracketing for a broad range of exposure will give you more chances to get a usable image. You could also try HDR with a bracketed set.

Let’s take another example.  You are shooting macro images of flowers and insects.  If you bracket for aperture your chances of coming away with a great image are better.  You might think f/11 gets you just the right depth of field.  But just for kicks, you go ahead and shoot at f/8 and f/5.6.  Then you go the other way and shoot at f/16 and f/22.  Later at the computer, you like the f/11 image but then when you look at the one at f/8 you see that, while there is a little softness at the edge of the flower, the background is much more pleasingly blurred than the one at f/11.  Since you didn’t really look hard at the background while you were in the field, paying more attention to the subject (understandable), you didn’t notice the too-focused background.

A small fry gambles in the pasture just outside Fossil, central Oregon.  Shutter speed is an obvious choice for a bracket here, resulting in images from slightly blurred to motion-stopping sharp.

A small fry gambles in the pasture just outside Fossil in central Oregon. Shutter speed is an obvious choice for a bracket here, resulting in images from slightly blurred to motion-stopping sharp.

So you end up going with the one at f/8, something you couldn’t do if you had not bracketed for aperture.  When taking portraits of people outdoors you can take a similar tack.  You can shoot at f/4 but also get one at f/2.8 and f/5.6.  Then evaluate on your computer at home to see which is the best balance between clarity in the face and out-of-focus background.

Masaya volcano in Nicaragua remains active and is accessible by hiking trail.  Bracketing for exposure allowed me to get the shot and quickly move on.  A belching volcano does not encourage tarrying.

Masaya volcano in Nicaragua remains active and is accessible by hiking trail. Bracketing for exposure allowed me to get the shot and quickly move on. A belching volcano does not encourage stalling to experiment.

The same thing can be done when shooting in shutter speed priority mode.  If you’re panning or trying for motion blur, bracketing your shutter speed can save you.  Say you think 1/30th sec. is the thing when you’re out there shooting.  But later you find that 1/20th gave a better image.  Of course you can check results on the LCD and experiment.  But going with a plan to bracket gives some structure to your shooting and allows you to concentrate on capturing moving subjects, and also on technique (important when panning for e.g.).

The annular eclipse of the sun.  If you want to capture the symmetrical ring of light, you only have a few seconds.  Thus the need to set the camera on auto-bracket to make sure you get a well-exposed image.

The annular eclipse of the sun. If you want to capture the symmetrical ring of light, you only have a few seconds. Thus the need to set the camera on auto-bracket to make sure you get a well-exposed image.

MORE TO CONSIDER:

      • You can think of bracketing as structured experimentation, and there is, in my opinion, a continuum between experimentation and bracketing.  You will certainly want to experiment in the traditional way; that is, shoot, look at the LCD, adjust and shoot again.  But it is quicker and more efficient in many cases to bracket.
      • Think about how fine you want to get.  You could, for example, bracket at +/- 1/3 stop increments all the way to +/- 2 stops.  When you’re dealing with exposure, this might not be necessary; whole stop increments are likely good enough given your software’s ability to do the rest.  When you’re dealing with panning or motion blur, however, 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments might be necessary.
      • With exposure bracketing, your camera (if it’s a DSLR or micro 4/3) will usually allow you to take the bracketed shots automatically.  This is normally set through the exposure compensation menu choice.  If you are hand-holding the camera set it on burst mode so that all three (or sometimes five) shots are taken in succession.  If you’re on a tripod, skip burst mode and just take them one after the other.
      • You can bracket your ISO.  If you are shooting stars at night (and don’t want star trails), your shutter speed is limited to 20 seconds or so.  Your aperture  is also usually fixed (nearly always wide open).  There is only one variable left to change, and that’s ISO.  Later you can check the images on your computer monitor at home for that perfect balance between density/brightness of the star field and noise.  This is difficult to do in the field, as much because of your bleary eyes late at night as your camera’s imperfect LCD.
The Milky Way soars over Crater Lake in Oregon.  This image was bracketed for ISO to get the right brightness in the Milky Way.

The Milky Way soars over Crater Lake in Oregon. This image was bracketed for ISO to get the right brightness in the Milky Way.

      • You can also bracket your white balance.  This is only really necessary if you shoot Jpegs.  If you shoot RAW you can change your white balance in post-processing while not worrying about introducing artifacts like noise.  Many DSLRs will even allow you to set the white balance bracket so your camera will shoot it automatically, as it does with exposure bracketing.
      • Bracketing for exposure is necessary when shooting for HDR.  If you’re planning on doing HDR, you’ll need to bracket those high-contrast scenes you feel might be good candidates.  Many photographers will shoot 5, 7 or even 9 pictures, each separated by 1 or 2 stops.  They might not use all of them in their final image; often 3 is all you need.  With HDR, you need to use a tripod and make sure each picture is the exact same frame as the last.  Otherwise your software might have trouble lining things up.
      • Since bracketing is yet another thing to think about before shooting, introduce it slowly.  Don’t let it get in the way of thinking about light and composition.  These should always come first.  Try first bracketing for exposure.  The experimentation method mentioned above is a slower, more measured way to handle the rest of your shooting.  Bracketing aperture (depth of field), shutter speed (motion blur) and other variables should be a natural extension to experimentation.  It will eventually speed up your shooting, but there really is no reason to rush it.
A meadow covered in the next generation of flowers, near Mt Hood, Oregon.  Although f/8 is a good aperture to start with, why not bracket and include images with both lesser and greater depths of field.

A meadow covered in the next generation of flowers, near Mt Hood, Oregon. Although f/8 is a good aperture to start with, why not bracket and include images with both lesser and greater depths of field.

Bracketing is by no means a relic of the film days.  It can be a way to expand the options you have during post-processing, allow you to improve selected images or render them using more advanced software.  It can lend structure and efficiency to your shooting.  Most importantly, it can result in more keepers, improving your portfolio in the process.  Have fun out there and thanks for looking!

If you’re interested in any of these images just click on them to go to be given the option to purchase high-res. downloads or prints, along with other products.  They are copyrighted and not available for free download.  Sorry about that.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  Thanks for your interest.

A small cove on the northern California coast features a stream, abalone shells, and a peaceful sunset.  I was pretty sure on exposure here, but bracketing for shutter speed gave me different looks to the flowing stream in the foreground.

A small cove on the northern California coast features a stream, abalone shells, and a peaceful sunset. I was pretty sure on exposure here, but bracketing for shutter speed gave me different looks to the flowing stream in the foreground.

Happy Easter!   3 comments

A red tulip.

A red tulip.

Happy Easter!  This is a very simple post.  I hope you are spending most of this day outside.  So I have few words to distract you.  No pictures of bunnies, sorry.  For me Easter means tulips.  I think tulips are my favorite flower, or at least my favorite cultivated flower.  Just click on the images for high-res. versions and purchase options.  These are copyrighted and not available for free download, sorry.  Thanks for your interest.  Enjoy your holiday!

A spring shower dampens a newly bloomed pink tulip.

A spring shower dampens a newly bloomed pink tulip.

 

In Praise of the Prickly Pear   8 comments

Hot pink prickly pear cactus bloom, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

Hot pink prickly pear cactus bloom, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

I recently realized something.  I have until recently avoided photographing a worthy subject just because it is common. It is the lowly beaver tail cactus, a member of the prickly pear family.  It grows across the interior western United States, touching the Pacific Coast in southern California.  It took quite awhile for me to come around on this rather unspectacular cactus.  But now I am taking the time to notice its subtle charm.

Beavertail cactus, a member of the pricklypear family, is a common sight in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah.

Beaver tail cactus, a member of the prickly pear family, is a common sight in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah.

You see, I’ve noticed that this plant and I have some things in common.  It is on the surface unpleasant when you first glance its way, having a heavily creased face and a generally sour appearance.  It’s also worth avoiding at certain times, such as early mornings before it’s had a cup of coffee.   But it cannot completely conceal a certain rough charm, when the light is right.  And its interior is pulpy and soft, in stark contrast to the face it shows to the general public.

The wrinkles of a prickly pear that has gone to purple in Zion Canyon, Utah.

The wrinkles of a prickly pear that has gone to purple in Zion Canyon, Utah.

More than once I’ve squatted down to look at something on the desert floor, and had my bottom stuck with the painful spines of a small prickly pear I hadn’t even noticed.  I’ve also been annoyed when huge prickly pears blocked my way, forcing me to detour.  In many drier areas of the American West, beaver tail is ubiquitous, the most common spiny succulent growing.

The plant can take on amazing colors, particularly just after flowering, or when it’s stressed and the chlorophyll drains out of its body.  When a plant loses its green chlorophyll, other pigments (such as anthocyanins) impart vibrant purples, pinks, reds and other shades.  In fact, this is precisely what happens when a leaf goes from green to red or yellow in autumn.

After the bloom: a prickly pear's dried flowers show their version of fall colors in Zion National Park, Utah.

After the bloom: a prickly pear’s dried flowers show their version of fall colors in Zion National Park, Utah.

Prickly pears are wrinkly and spiny, and the beaver tail is no exception.  The spines keep most animals from eating it (for the moisture it contains inside) and the wrinkles are an adaptation that lessens the drying effect of desert winds.  These features give it an interesting look when the light is right.  Like other photographers, I mostly have ignored the prickly pear.  That is until it blooms.

Springtime in the deserts of the American Southwest means hot pink beaver tail cactus are in bloom.

Springtime in the deserts of the American Southwest means hot pink beaver tail cactus are in bloom.

In the deserts of the southwestern U.S.A., prickly pear blooms in late March or April – springtime.  The amount of winter rainfall and other factors influence how showy the blooms are, but the size and color (usually pinkish) of the flowers never disappoints anyone.  It is only recently that I’ve begun to really see how beautiful it can be at other times of the year.

So here’s to our common beaver tail cactus.  I will never take it for granted again.

Beaver tail cactus grows abundantly in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah.

Beaver tail cactus grows abundantly in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah.

Life in the Universe III   13 comments

Isn't it natural to believe that our Creator is from on high?

Isn’t it natural to believe that our Creator is from on high?

At one time I thought God created everything, but I can’t remember ever truly believing it was during 6 very busy days.  I do remember giving serious consideration to whether or not Purgatory would be an interesting place to stop before going to Heaven, even if there was a small chance I could be sent instead to Hell by mistake.  Then soon after I seriously began studying science, I put my inner religious beliefs into a little box and went on, unencumbered, to feed my curiosity.  I didn’t throw my beliefs away.  I believe that as you go through life, you should try not to throw things away unless you really need to.  We already lose too much as we grow older.

Buddhists create a spiritual atmosphere with these: Laos.

Buddhists create a spiritual atmosphere with these: Laos.

I learned that it’s likely life emerged from non-life by a trick of chemistry, and that was that.  I had bigger fish to fry – how the Earth and other planets formed.  I knew scientists didn’t really know exactly how life began, but I figured they would find out soon enough.  It wasn’t for me an important question for a long time.

(An aside: I sometimes wonder whether I would have become obsessed with life’s origins, had I went further in the direction I explored my senior year in college.  I was good at chemistry in college, and I took a class called Thermodynamic Geochemistry, which sounds a lot tougher than it actually was – but it would have gotten very tough if I had pursued it.)

Probably the world's oldest religion.

Probably the world’s oldest religion: Judaism.

Meanwhile, for the scientists who work on it, the origin of life has been an unusually thorny problem.  There have been many side-tracks along the way, from primordial soup to deep sea vents to extra-terrestrial origins (panspermia).

Earth was a barren place before life, and water only appeared in mirages (if anyone were there to see them).

Earth was a barren place before life, and water only appeared in mirages (if anyone were there to see them).

One of the first environments thought to be the cradle for life: shallows of the sea.

One of the first environments thought to be the cradle of life: shallows of the sea.

 

The State of Our Knowledge of Life’s Origin

We don’t really know what kind of environment hosted the first life.  It could have been in a thermal area, or in ice, or even in solid rock.  It could have been on Mars.  But wherever it was, water very likely was the dominant substance surrounding the primitive beings.

The clear pools at Semuc Champey in the Guatemalan highlands invite a cooling swim.

The clear pools at Semuc Champey in the Guatemalan highlands invite a cooling swim.

Perhaps a non-living compound underwent some chemical transformation into RNA.  RNA can do the work of forming proteins (as it’s doing right now inside you) but it can also reproduce, like DNA.   Then it’s just a matter of finding itself in the right place at the right time (pre-cells), to be put to work in an entirely novel way in something we would now call alive.

Clay is thought to be a likely place for pre-living chemistry to have taken place.

Clay is thought to be a likely place for pre-living chemistry to have taken place.

Or perhaps non-living structures similar to our body’s cells first started to form in high-energy environments (like deep sea vents) and they began to process energy (it’s thermodynamically favorable).  Then they began to reproduce (via RNA).  Most scientists believe that RNA is an important key.

Life was born because chemical compounds were formed at great odds.  Here salt crystals form naturally when pools evaporate in the desert.

Life was born because chemical compounds formed at great odds. Salt crystals form naturally when pools evaporate in the desert.

Perhaps you know of Craig Venter.  He’s the guy who led the team who first decoded the human genome.  He’s at work now on trying to create a living organism with no biological parents (actually a computer takes the parents’ place).  Many believe that creating life ourselves is necessary before we can understand how it arose.  As Richard Feynman once said, “What I cannot create, I do not understand”.

Active volcanoes (this one in Indonesia) could have easily provided a spark for the origin of life.

Active volcanoes (this one in Indonesia) could have easily provided a spark for the origin of life.

You can see there is some uncertainty here, and every good chemist knows these transformations are not at all easy.  But it happened.  Stuff happens after all, and given a lot of time and the right environment, perhaps life has been emerging  everywhere, throughout the history of the universe.  So what if we can’t explain the moment of life’s creation.  Does it matter?

Did life come from another planet to seed Earth's lifeless oceans?

Did life come from another planet to seed Earth’s lifeless oceans?

I tend to think that life in this solar system evolved on Earth first, but I wouldn’t bee too surprised if it started on Mars first and was transported to Earth riding on a meteor.  I also believe that this question: how did life start, is an important one.  I think it will take us a big step forward in figuring out how life emerged in the universe.  How we got here is one thing, but it will take much more insight to discover why we are here.

This story will continue, so stay tuned…

However it started, our Earth is incredibly, fully alive.

However it started, our Earth is incredibly, fully alive.

Life and the Universe II   8 comments

Mount Hood is illuminated by a half-moon with the summer stars above.

Mount Hood is illuminated by a half-moon with the summer stars above.

How did all of this come to be?  I mean everything around us.  Have you looked out into a deep inky-starry sky lately?  Have you tried, actually tried, to comprehend the distances involved, the multitude of galaxies and star systems?  Two things have become obvious:  (1) a multitude of planets exist, many likely to host life; and (2) the universe, in the way it works, is fine-tuned to be friendly towards the emergence of life.   This leads many to the idea that life might not be just an accident.  In thinking about the universe’s ultimate origins, life just might be the one small feature of the universe that is too important to ignore.

Constellations in a Meadow.

Constellations in a Meadow.

To date, physicists have been in charge of figuring out the origin and make-up of the universe.  If you knew any physicists in college, or even since then (highly unlikely), you know how ridiculous that notion is.  Unless the universe is nearly devoid of life, an assumption that is becoming more and more unlikely as time goes on, then we need more than just quantum physicists to answer the ultimate questions.

To begin with, think of it this way.  Our universe is just under 14 billion years old.  That is the quite precisely dated age of the Big Bang.  There is a small chance that this age is in error, but I wouldn’t hold out much hope that the error is 14 billion minus 6000 years!  The universe (and Earth) are ancient, incredibly ancient.  A lot has taken place already.  But there is much much more to come.  All evidence points to this thing going on for a long time to come.  Where are we headed?  That is a question just as important as the origin question, and its answer could help shed light on why we are here.

Pondering one of Earth's possible cradles for life, at Yellowstone's Grand Prismatic Spring.

Pondering one of Earth’s possible cradles for life, at Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring.

It’s obvious now that our universe began with a great explosion of space-time itself (the Big Bang) and has been expanding ever since.  The rate of the expansion has apparently not been constant.  It has been speeding up of late, or that is the current best explanation for astronomical observations of stellar explosions in deep space.

I’m taking as a given that we MUST eventually discover how all of this came to be, where it is going, how it will end, and (most importantly) why.  At least we must continue to try.  Those who put their faith in God, in the Bible, the Koran or Book of Mormon, even these people will be enriched if and when we discover the true nature of things.  They might not admit it publicly, but they will be enriched along with the rest of us.

The crescent moon rises in the early morning of Friday the 13th, 2012.

The crescent moon rises in the early morning of Friday the 13th, 2012.

There is nothing in astronomy thus far that contradicts the idea of a creator.  We are having some trouble describing the situation at the precise moment of the Big Bang (we can only describe events AFTER the Big Bang).  But even if we do, hints of higher levels of reality, a Multiverse (see below) means it all could have been set in motion by a creator long before “our” big bang.  Now be honest.  When you read the word “creator”, you had in mind an image.  I’m guessing it was an image derived from childhood religious teachings.  But notice I didn’t capitalize the word.  That’s because a creator, which let’s be honest is not at all required for this universe to have come into being, could indeed be someone entirely different than our traditional image of God.

Little worlds in water droplets at Portland's Rose Garden on a rainy day.

Little worlds in water droplets at Portland’s Rose Garden on a rainy day.

If you know something about quantum theory, you might have heard of virtual particles.  These are actually physical phenomena that pop into being from nothing, and then pop right back out of existence.  In fact, some scientists believe that the universe is speeding up its expansion because of the energy coming from this “restlessness” in the vacuum of space.  If you are willing to skip a lot of quantum physics and general cosmology in between, you can move to the extreme case of a universe popping into being from nothing.  In other words, you may be part of a universe that came into existence from nothing, with no help from anything but the inherent instability of truly empty space.  No creator, or Creator, is required.

The basic problem with applying quantum theory to the universe as a whole is, as it has been for closing on a hundred years now, the difficulty physicists have in applying quantum theory to the world we live in.  The word quantum refers to things so tiny that they’re really little packets of energy rather than things with length and breadth.  Electrons and protons are two examples of quanta.  These are things we will probably never photograph directly (atoms, made up of protons and electrons, have been photographed).

The Milky Way soars over Crater Lake, Oregon.

The Milky Way soars over Crater Lake, Oregon.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that we haven’t had much luck so far taking a theory that describes the world of electrons and protons and applying it to things that are infinitely more huge like a person, let alone something as vast as a universe.  Things like rivers and rocks, elephants and planets, stars and nebulae are, in essence, emergent properties of some underlying reality.  We seem to be stumbling around, using the language of mathematics to look for this underlying reality, and coming up with plenty of possibilities.  All the while physicists have not been able to connect any of the myriad possibilities to what has actually emerged from that reality.

Many attempts have been made to meld the submicroscopic world of energy (the universe right after the Big Bang) with the more familiar and much cooler universe of today.  We have a well-tested theory of beyond-tiny particles, but we need a theory of stars, planets and bacteria. ( Ha!  You thought I was going to say people, but bacteria vastly outnumber us and probably inhabit way more planets than do large animals like us.)

A rare solar corona appears.

A rare solar corona appears.

Einstein, Bohr, Wheeler, Feynman, etc., etc., all very smart scientists, have put forth  ideas that would extend classical quantum mechanics.  But nobody has succeeded in coming up with a well-tested quantum theory of the macroscopic world (a.k.a. quantum theory of gravity).  There are theories in science, and then there are Theories.  Sometimes, when it is pure mathematics behind the idea, they call it a theorem.  Nobody would call relativity, or evolution by natural selection, a theorem, believe me.  This ongoing effort is often called the Quest for the Holy Grail of Physics.

So I’ll leave it there for now.  I won’t say much more about quantum theory per se, though everything from here on out traces back to it.  Instead I’ll jump right on to the idea of multiple universes, or the Multiverse, and how life and the origin of life might fit in.  It would be good for anyone interested in science to get up to speed (layperson’s speed that is) on quantum theory.  I don’t pretend to understand a lick of the mathematics behind it, so don’t ask me too many questions.  But the ideas of entanglement and decoherence, of multiple histories, and even wave function collapse, are all good targets for a bit of googling and (better) actual book-reading.  More to come.

A small stupa in Nepal's Himalayan mountains allows Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike a moment of rest and reflection on the trekking trail.

A small stupa in Nepal’s Himalayan mountains allows Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike a moment of rest and reflection on the trekking trail.

Frosty Photos   2 comments

Frost makes for beautiful close-up photography in the garden.

Frost makes for beautiful close-up photography in the garden.

This is a short post on a favorite winter-time photo subject of mine: frost.  I used my Canon 100 mm. macro lens for these shots, but a regular lens with close-focusing would work too.  I also sometimes use my Canon 500D close-up lens, which screws on like a filter.  Combined with a wide-angle lens it gives you the best of both worlds: close focusing and wide angle.  Your depth of field is limited though, just like with macro lenses.

Red berries make a festive frost-covered subject.

Red berries make a festive frost-covered subject.

The weather recently gave us cold fog that collected in the valleys overnight.  It does not often drop below freezing in Portland, Oregon, but when it does, the area’s heavy plant cover offers abundant opportunity for photos of frost-decorated plants.  I took these pictures in the gardens of my neighborhood, including my own, while walking my dog.  That is as simple as photo shoots come.

Frost coats a branch.

Crystalline frost coats a branch.

PHOTO HOW-TO

As with most macro shots, the right depth of field and the right background are your main concerns.  I shot these hand-held, an unnecessary challenge given the fact that there are these things called tripods.  What can I say, I like challenges.  Actually, there is a technique to this that will help when you are hand-holding shots of people and still life.  Set your lens on manual focus and frame your subject.  Set your focus manually, then move the camera (and your body if necessary) back and forth until you have your subject in perfect focus.  I like to use the focus confirmation light in my viewfinder to see when I have focus and can press the shutter.

If you want, you can try to use burst mode to increase the likelihood of a perfectly focused shot.  Burst mode seems a bit like cheating to me, and I only use it in special circumstances (such as action).  I see a lot of photographers shooting with burst on all their subjects.  That seems rather strange to me.  It’s as if they do not trust their ability to decide when to take the picture.  I think it’s a bad practice.  I will shoot a burst when a breeze is moving my macro subject, so I’m not anti-burst.  I just think you use burst with forethought, not in “spray and pray” mode with all your pictures.

Get out and shoot some winter macro!

Beautiful decorations on the garden plants are the result of a frosty January morning.

Beautiful decorations on the garden plants are the result of a frosty January morning.

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