Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Pheasant for Breakfast

Maybe the title should have read Pheasant at Breakfast as that was just what happened at the Birdy Bistro this morning. Simply awful conditions for photography so here are a couple of snapshots which had to taken at ISO 3000. At 1200 the shutter speed was about 1/5 second with the lens wide open!

Pheasant 3

Pheasant 2

Not my morning for good photography. I also managed to record some video as it passed near the 'Hedgehog' camera but the recorder was playing up and showing a lot of coloured blocks. I did take a lot out by dropping out those frames in Corel Video Studio Pro X4 (yes I did manage to get a cheap copy in the Amazon Black Friday Event last week).

While on the subject of Hedgehogs it looks as though my regular visitor has decided to hibernate at last. Four days running the dried mealworms have still been there the following morning, much to the delight of the invading Starlings which polish them off in about 10 seconds.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Macro on Monday - Guess What + Internet Radio

Well, well. Yet again I get to keep all the virtual gold stars to myself. Last week's Guess What was a close view of some sheep's wool I found blowing down the lane some time ago.

IMG_5321     Sheep's Wool

Maybe this week things will be a bit easier.
Guess What:

No prizes, just for fun.

Internet Radio
It is only fairly recently that I have found the pleasure of listening to radio through the internet. Being a founder member of the Grumpy Old Man community I find a lot of modern so called comedy far from funny and do not see the need for foul language to make a joke funny, just the opposite. It was a real pleasure when I tried a couple of apps on the iPad to access internet radio sites. My first search was for comedy channels, UK comedy as a lot of modern US humour goes straight over my head.

I was overjoyed to find which has a large variety of stations for all tastes. My favourites being 'The Goon Show' and 'British Comedy' channels. Also found was PumpkinFM, for their 'British Comedy' channel. On a different theme another favourite of mine is The UK 1940s Radio Station which broadcasts swing / big band music from that era. On the music side I like a wide variety of styles from classical through to some of the 'head banging' modern styles and there are stations to cater for all of this.

I soon got dissatisfied with the sound from the small speaker in the iPad and bought a Roberts internet radio. It refused to connect to my wireless internet connection, even after more than an hour of help from the Roberts help line. Fortunately it works well through a firewire connection to the router but I would have liked it portable rather than tethered.

Roberts Internet Radio

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Sunset in Black and White and Colour

Lovely Sunset this evening so took a few snaps with the Lumix. What I wanted to end up with was a photo with the sky in colour and the foreground in greyscale. I did manage it after fiddling around in Elements for about an hour and a half. Although I have just finished it I doubt I could remember what I did to repeat the effect.


I'm not sure the end result was worth the trials and tribulations but was a way of trying to come to terms with Elements 10. It's a powerful program, a tad more powerful than me I fear.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Friday at the Flicks - Female Blackcap

It was a good job I managed to take some photos and a few bits of video of the female Blackcap when she visited as she only stayed a couple of days. You can see how small she is (a little smaller than a House Sparrow) when a Great Tit lands next to her. Notice also that birds, with their eyes set at the side of their heads, have to tilt their heads to one side to find the next seed they are going to eat.

Sound Track: "Your Smile" from the iPhone / iPad app "[SPA] Spirits Massage - The Sound of Moving " available as a free download on the iTunes App Store,

Thursday, 24 November 2011

iPhone as a Microscope - Experiment

I had read about using the iPhone camera as a simple microscope so decided to try for myself. First I needed an extra bit if kit. In this case a "Mini 45x Microscope with Illuminator" which is a mere £4.99 from Amazon UK, plus postage. This is a tiny hand held microscope and can be seen as the double barrelled object in the following photo. The barrel with the black cap is the microscope and the other holds three tiny batteries for the two built in LEDs for illumination when needed. As an easily portable simple hand held microscope it works well, especially when you consider the price. How would it work on the iPhone?


It is quite tricky holding the microscope in just the right place - in line with the camera lens of the iPhone.
When I first tried it with the standard phone app all I got was a small circle in the centre of the screen but using the app Camera+ which allows better magnification the view could be made larger.
Not the most brilliant of pictures but the following two shots are of what I assume to be a weevil of some sort (possibly a biscuit beetle) which arrived in a bag of broken dog biscuits. As can be seen from the photo above they are small, about 4mm long so as a cheap microscope the setup does a reasonable job.



The photos are unedited - exactly as taken by the phone.
The idea came from something I saw on the net. In that description the author had cemented the microscope to a clear plastic clip on shell for the iPhone. I was sure the article was on the Instructables site but I can't find it at the moment. There are lots of other ideas on there to achieve similar results.

I was wrong. You can see the original idea on the Crabfu blog HERE where there is a YouTube video.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Female Blackcap

Just another practice session with Elements. The original is somewhat grainy as it was taken in dull weather. Basically it was cropped, contrast enhanced, sharpened and then everything except the bird was blurred to make her stand out.

Female Blackcap

That could have been my last chance to photograph her as she only stayed for a couple of days.

A First Quick Fumble With Photoshop Elements 10

I dropped lucky yesterday. Amazon are having a Black Friday Sale this week. In the sale certain products from across their full range are available at reduced prices though in limited numbers and for limited times. When I looked PS Elements 10 was available for half price so I grabbed a copy. It arrived this morning and this is my first attempt to fumble my way round a different photo program.

Lovely Sunrise this morning so I took a few snaps with the Lumix TZ10 by taking a light reading from the brightest part of the sky and then lowering the view. This is the one I tried in Elements:



Monday, 21 November 2011

Macro on Monday - Guess What

At last I can award some virtual  gold star which go to Keith, Adrian and Wilma for identifying the various views of a padlock which was indeed made by Yale.

Page_1    P1030204

Just the one view today
Guess What:

Clue: Not enough to keep much of you warm.

Just for fun.
No prizes for a correct identification.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Female Blackcap

The extra plank I put on the Birdy Bistro seems to be doing the job of attracting birds which prefer not to sit on feeder perches. Today I got a very brief glimpse of a bird I haven't seen in the garden before now. Hopefully it was a female Blackcap.

My thanks to Keith (Caldecotte Lake) for a confirmation of its ID. In fact it was seeing the small birds feeding on the bridge rails in his videos which gave me the idea of putting up a flat surface for the birds to feed on.

Poor, rushed photos taken just before it disappeared:



It returned later giving a few more opportunities for a better shot:


Friday, 18 November 2011

An Unwelcome Visitor

Another Friday without any new flicks. The video camera was just in the wrong position this morning. Earlier in the week I had added a platform to the Birdy Bistro for those birds which prefer to stand on a flat surface to eat. That meant I could spread out the seed to give better chances for photography. It got better than I anticipated this morning. Soon after a hoard of Starlings had flown in for an early breakfast they all disappeared and a larger shape landed on the platform. It was the local Sparrowhawk. A magnificent bird to look at but a most unwelcome visitor for those who had been enjoying their seeds. It was unfortunate that it took up a position behind the wires which lead to the lights which illuminate the Hedgehog feeding area but for the final photo below I did clone them out with judicious use of the Wireworm plugin.




Even after the Sparrowhawk had departed it was at least 20 minutes before any of the small birds returned.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Wings on Wednesday G-BVDC and a Dunnock

Heard a light aircraft nearby yesterday so rushed out with the Canon. It was a Van's RV-3 kit aircraft dating from 1994. This monoplane is a single seater and capable of speeds in excess of 200mph with a 150hp engine. It can carry about 30 gallons of fuel giving a range of 600 miles.



Several birds seen in the garden yesterday including a Crow, a couple of Magpies, a couple of Great Tits and a Blue Tit but only one of the regular Dunnocks hung around long enough for a photo session.


The array of blunt plastic spikes are to discourage the local cats from getting too close to the camera nestbox which is below them.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Christmas Tree

Many years ago my then next door neighbour planted her Christmas Tree in her garden. As she said - it had two choices, grow or die. It decided to grow. Even though it was cut down by half a year ago it is still a good twenty feet tall and produces a magnificent array of cones:

Xmas Tree

Monday, 14 November 2011

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Oh dear, and there was me thinking last week's puzzle picture was too easy. How wrong can I be? Once again I get to keep all the gold stars for myself. To put you out of your misery it was various parts of a measuring tape - easy when you know the answer.

Page_1    Tape Measure

I wonder how you will get on with the new puzzle picture
Guess What:

For this one I got round to using the 350D with bellows and Asahi  Super Takumar 55mm lens. First time for quite a while. For some time I have puzzled over what to use to light macro subjects. In the past I have used a couple of home brew LED lamps but they were really too dim. A while ago I bought a 12V LED ring lamp (designed for car headlamp / side light use).

LED Ring Light 12V    LED Ring Light 12V

Yesterday I finally took it off the Round Tuit pile and tried it out, just holding it in place in front of the lens. The results were surprisingly good. I could see to focus easily, stop down the lens for the first time, and shutter speed was reasonable. That made my mind up to invest in an LED ring flash which I have just ordered. Not as powerful as a traditional ring flash, but one tenth of the price! Coupled with what I already have it should work reasonably well.

Back to today's Guess What. No prizes. Just for fun.

Friday, 11 November 2011

No Peanuts? Try Some Bread!

First Friday without any new flicks for a long time. Too dull and very little activity in the garden. This Grey Squirrel was too fast to capture on video but I did manage a few stills as it kept changing its mind as to the best place to eat the piece of bread it had found.

Squirrel Eating Bread

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Little Miss Muffet's Companion?

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey,
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away

When I was late putting out some food for the Hedgehog a few nights ago I spotted a garden orb spider in its web. Even though the night was dark I decided to attempt to take a few photographs. Amazingly the Lumix TZ7 did a splendid job using its red LED to give just enough light to auto focus before firing the flash. (The Lumix does not have manual focus)

Spider 02

As the web was strung up in the open I was able to photograph from both sides.

Spider 01

I was more than a bit pleased that the web, which can be very difficult to capture in daylight, showed up well under flash photography, especially with the dark background. To give an idea of scale; the spider is, at the most, about 20mm long with legs outstretched.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Oh dear. I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the suggestions that last week's Guess What was a morphed version of me. Either way it has saved me a few gold stars as nobody sussed out the real identity.


In fact it was one of the carvings on the village church, not a gargoyle as it is not a water spout and not really fanciful enough to be a grotesque.

Back down to earth with the new puzzle picture.
Guess What

Just for fun. No prizes for a correct identification.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Where Have all the Birds Gone? + Hedgehog Visitor

It has become a rare event to see a bird in the garden recently. The only regulars are a couple of Dunnocks. Even the Wood Pigeons and House Sparrows have deserted the garden. Part of the reason will be an outbreak of the dreaded Finch Disease (Trichomonosis). About ten days ago I saw two Greenfinches and one Goldfinch showing typical symptoms of the disease. That meant I had to take down the feeders from the Birdy Bistro to discourage the birds from gathering in large numbers. I did put one small seed feeder in a different part of the garden and a couple of peanut feeders with a mix of peanuts and fat pellets but there have been hardly any takers.

The only other regular is a Hedgehog. I rarely see it as it is normally a late visitor but last night it was feeding on dried mealworms about 7.30 p.m. so I managed a bit of video:

I wouldn't normally expect to see one visiting regularly at this time of year but until very recently night temperatures have been in double figures so it has probably been too warm to think about hibernating.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Occupying Time When Retired

Another brilliant e-mail received this morning:

Working people frequently ask retired people what they do to make their days interesting. Well, for example, the other day, Bev, my wife, and I went into town and visited a shop.

When we came out, there was a cop writing out a parking ticket.

We went up to him and I said, 'Come on, man, how about giving a senior citizen a break?' He ignored us and continued writing the ticket.

I called him an “a--hole” . He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having worn-out tyres.

So Bev called him a “s--t head”. He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first. Then he started writing more tickets. This went on for about 20 minutes. The more we abused him, the more tickets he wrote.

Just then our bus arrived, and we got on it and went home.

We try to have a little fun each day now that we're retired. It's important at our age.
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