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I like to take some awfully strange photos, but this one… is sort of a photo of a strange photo. What’s puzzling is the absolute prominence of the pineapple. Why should there be a pineapple there, in the bottom left, and were pineapples even grown in Brazil, etc.?

“As the Enlightenment period made the rich richer, the landed aristocracy began to engage in a frenzy of new hobbies, including gambling, boozing, and time-consuming, expensive pineapple cultivation. Pineries needed care around the clock, custom-built greenhouses, and mountains of coal to keep the temperatures high. The fruit took three to four years to bloom. The cost of rearing each one was equivalent to eight thousand dollars in today’s money.”

The Strange History of the “King-Pine” hints as to the answers to those questions… while bringing up innumerable more questions. Definitely worth reading the article for the strange history.

– D

Camera Roll

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Glasgow Botanic Gardens D 54 Reche Canyon 94
Cranberry Apple Flower Tarte 1 Portland 134
Vacaville 105 Vacaville 148

As the heat wave continues, we find indoor things to play with… and we’ve started messing with this new feature Flickr has called Camera Roll. It basically shows you an organized view of your pictures, based upon some machine-vision thing they’ve got going on, that shows every shot with People in it, or Arches, or Trees, or Flowers, or any number of other odd ways they have of lumping things together. It’s quite fun, and if you’ve got a Flickr account, you can play along, but if not, it’s not publicly available for you to just go through anybody’s photostream and see what’s what, thus we’ve included a few of our grouped shots here. These to the left are a bunch of pictures that were lumped together under Style / Bright, I think. It really does provide a different way to look at your photos, and probably means you’ll look at more of them, and more frequently.

That’s actually one of the questions that we get frequently in the Hobbiton: “Do you guys actually look at all those pictures after you take them?” Short answer: yes. Longer answer, we have them on a slideshow on a screen playing in our living room whenever we have guests over, so if you’re lucky enough to be invited, you could look at them, too! We really do look at them a great deal, simply because they keep us connected to our travels and to our adventures, and reminds us that being home, plugging along through work and whatever other mundane thing is just what one does between trips…

For those of you who do the twitter thing, we’ve finally given in and joined — T, under deepest protest, because the entire thing makes her break out in hives. We’re at @david_t_macknet and @tanita_s_davis if you’re at all interested. Still not quite sure what the point of it is, and still find the limitation on length to be somewhat of an annoyance, but hey, when your agent throws you under the bus says it would be good marketing, you listen, and your spouse joins in sympathy for the pain you will suffer from being on social media again. True love, that.


New Photography Toys

So, our favorite camera store was having a sale the other day, and we picked up a new lens. It’s a ProOptic 500mm f/6.3 Manual Focus, T-Mount Mirror Lens, which … is essentially a telescope that mounts onto your camera. Because it’s a reflector lens, it’s actually fairly short, and not weighty at all, so the camera is fine mounted to a tripod (rather than having to mount the lens to the tripod). We’re still waiting on a Bower SLY2X 2x T-Mount Telephoto Extender for T-Mount Lenses (it was on back-order). With that 2x extender, we’ll have a 1,000mm lens!

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What does this mean for our photography? Well, first off, it means well be using the tripod a whole lot more frequently, as it’s nearly impossible to shoot a non-stabilized 500mm lens, never mind trying that with a 1,000mm lens. Second, it means we’ll be able to get a lot more detail out of our pictures of hummingbirds or the moon or anything else we can think of which would be better much closer in.

It’s quirky, and has a very narrow depth-of-field, but it’s also quite nice to sit here in bed with the camera set up next to the bed, focused upon the hummingbird feeder.

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Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Photo Information

It is with great regret that I’ve set Flickr to hide the EXIF information from our photos. This has been forced by the fact that the U.S. will be trying to use this information to be evil. I’ll be looking into removing all of our EXIF information from Flickr. What a horror. I’d like to tell you what aperture / exposure I used … but I can’t remove the other information from the photos. So, I’ll be stripping it all from the photos from this point forward. I. Am. So. Incensed. I cannot even express the level of anger.


When to Photograph

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Our friend over at Short Sights discusses whether it’s OK to take photographs, and the pressures on photographers by those who think it’s not OK to photograph something. It’s definitely a balancing act, knowing when it’s OK to photograph and when not. We’ve said that wherever we end up next I’m going to link up with a local paper & ask to take photos for them, just so that I can get a press pass – that might make some things better in the minds of those who complain. On the other hand, here in the UK that means that the photos I take would fall under a different section of the UK Data Protection Act … at least, if I were going to use them for commercial reasons.

I’ve had people come out and ask me about what I’m photographing (usually it’ll be the architecture), but mostly it seems that they’re interested in chatting about photography, rather than caring that I’m taking anything from them or that I shouldn’t be taking photos to begin with. There have been a few people who have complained in earnest, but they’ve generally been people without knowledge of the applicable laws. I usually approach them in several steps: 1) show them the picture I just took, 2) explain to them why I found it interesting, 3) explain to them that the Data Protection Act permits me to take such photos, 4) ask them if they want me to delete the photo (and then keep it anyway). Of course, when I’m speaking with them I’m careful to smile the “tourist smile” and to make sure that my accent sounds as “Hollywood” as possible: being a tourist seems to put people here in a different frame of mind and they’re much more helpful and forgiving.

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Of course, when I’m trying to take candid shots of people I’ll usually just shoot without aiming and hope that I get something decent (as in the three women from the help-desk where I work, out for lunch, to the right). Sometimes I’ll resort to using a remote shutter-release cable, with the release in my pocket, so that people don’t even see my hands near the shutter-releases on the camera. Other times I’ll use T’s wee camera, as it doesn’t make any noise while shooting. That’s not to say that I’m doing something which I think to be wrong – just that people get weird about photography sometimes, and it’s much easier to not have to go through the rigamarole of them noticing that I’m shooting.

Short Sights also mentions that there are some things which you’d feel obligated to photograph, such as a riot or something. For me, that has meant shooting such things as Orange Marches, here in Scotland. Mostly, though, I try to avoid anything of the sort, even though I have insurance on the camera equipment. And there are times when I know that I’d be putting myself in a bad spot for taking photos, particularly as the world seems a bit crazy about the whole “terrorism” thing and has turned to terrorizing photographers in turn.

As the technology gets better and smaller, though, I think that it’s going to be inevitable that people will be able to photograph anywhere, at any time. The only people who will be singled out and punished are those of us with the large cameras, even though the resolution on them is not so great as the newer, smaller ones. So, how can we change the perception that a large camera means something different than a point-and-shoot? Perhaps on the next upgrade I’ll go with something truly wee, just to avoid the controversy.


The Summer Preview

A certain time of winter comes, and the body simply cranks down into Survival Mode. It’s post-holiday, after the New Year celebrations, and once the glitter is gone, and the thrill of the first snowfall, your psyche is just OVER IT. Skin is constantly dry, and one drinks tons of tea, slathers on lotion, and has a rather grim set to the mouth. Add to it wild weather, various illnesses and relapses, bedraggled hems and soaked shoes, and people just get snippy. Extraneous communication ceases, people do what they have to and sleep in the rest of the time.

(… unless they’re in the Bay Area of California, or San Diego. Then, they revel in the sunshine, and plot where they’re going to plant their tomatoes, the fortunate miscreants.) While our friends in the Midwest and the East Coast are still losing the last vestiges of Snopocalypse II, 2011, and Seattle braces for more snow this weekend (!); while many are reeling from the news that three of the next five winters will be just this severe, *thanks to climate change (and if you don’t believe in it, we don’t want to discuss it); while many hack and cough and hunch over their inhalers (looking at you, Mom and Van), we thought it might be time to play a round of Summer Preview. Feast your eyes on D’s photography from years past, and allow the images to jumpstart your brain into seeing a future of beach scenes, seed catalogs, sharpened mower blades, short sleeves, and giving yourself that much-needed leg deforestation (well, not everyone. Just you swimmers.) and pedicure…

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Are you feeling inspired? Perhaps craving grilled vegetables and food on sticks? Salad??? That’s right, drag that ratty fleece blanket a little closer, have another sip of tea, and let your mind go… to somewhere in the world there is a whole color palette that doesn’t begin and end with gray, white, and black. It exists! You will see it again! Honest!

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*You hadn’t heard about this Winter Hinterland thing being the new normal? Meteorologist’s long-term predictions seem to point that direction. If that fills you with horror, you’re not alone. Instead of panicking, there should be something (other than buying a lot of thermals, flannel and Thinsulate™) to do to plan ahead, to enjoy winter more (or at all) and to not let months of your life pass you by as you sleepwalk/whine/sniffle the days away. “Teh Interwebs” offer this advice (well, they actually offer a whole lot more – this is what’s useful and doesn’t reiterate too much what you already know):

  1. Get Healthy. In warmer, drier weather, getting into the habit of drinking plenty of water, getting at minimum eight hours of sleep, and those minimum thirty minutes a day of sustained exercise will really help you, because you’ll have those same habits come wintertime. Some of you are groaning quietly, but consider that exercise doesn’t have to be something boring. You CAN put on music and dance with your cats for a half hour. (Yes, that will make you the Crazy Cat Person, but who can they tell?) In the winter, good health habits will come back to help you, by giving you more energy and helping keep illness at bay. Eat citrus! Drink tea! Consider taking Vitamin D supplements, along with those Five A Day veg/fruit servings you’ll be eating – this will give you some health insurance that you don’t have to buy — and doesn’t everyone want that?
  2. Get Out. When we moved to Glasgow, our friend India said for us to go outside every single day it wasn’t absolutely pouring, if we could. We didn’t understand what she meant, and tended to stay in when it was foggy or freezing. No more. Getting outside can mean the different between sanity and …well, that other thing. Remember what you knew as a child: walking in the rain – and in the puddles – can be fun. Wind can be bracing (in small doses, with a reasonable windchill). Beach walks — where the sand clings to your shoes and doesn’t involve your legs in a losing battle against mud — are great, too. Snow hikes — wherein you don’t have the whole Little House on the Prairie vibe of Pa getting lost in a blizzard — can be beautiful, as you revel in the silence and the animal tracks. Get outside, even if it’s just a twenty minute walk on your lunch break every day. You don’t appreciate a warm, dry house, a fuzzy blankie, or a cup of tea as much as you do when you’ve been cold and a bit wet.
  3. Stay in the light. Whether this means burning a brightly scented pillar candle in a dark kitchen at oh-dark-early before you go to school or work (avoid those metal wicks; apparently they contain lead), or sitting beneath full-spectrum bulbs (Verilux or Blues Busters are great), which mimic sunlight, give yourself as much light as you can, during regular daylight hours. (Be aware that they can make you stay up too long, and you’ll need to adjust your light input – by turning them off an hour before you want to go to bed) Strings of lights around the floorboards of a house are marvelous – and make it look like you’ll Never Get Over Christmas. (Never mind, we KNOW you actually packed your decorations away on time this year. Sure you did.) We’re bewildered at how many people are fine with sitting in rooms with 40 watt bulbs in this country. Especially as it’s Prime Reading Season in the winter, splurge on a 120 watt and SEE for a change!
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Winter is only a part of the cycle of life and death of the natural world, and fierce and heavy winters will only mean that we’ll enjoy the temperate autumn and summer days that much more. We hope you’ve enjoyed this round of Summer Preview, and that it’s bringing you some anticipation of good things to come. Spring will come again — and so will winter. Next time, hopefully, we’ll be better physically AND mentally prepared!

“May you live ALL the days of your life.” ~ Jonathan Swift

All of these photographs are of flowers at the Glasgow Botanical Garden. It’s a great place to go when the temperatures are down into the low numbers, because it is ALWAYS balmy inside those glass greenhouses. We spend an entire morning there our first February in Scotland, and before the month is out, we hope to do it again!