Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Flangamingo

My friend told me she was reading her 3-year-old niece a bedtime story involving a flamingo, and the niece – and I quote – "assumed the flangamingo was a girl. I told her that there are boy flamingos too. She didn't believe me because they are pink."

Cute but also a bit sad; stereotypes catch us early and catch us hard.

Flangamingo was a typo in my friend's text message. Flamingo is already a great word, but flangamingo is even better.

In March my friend (different friend) and I went to the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary in Mumbai. These migratory birds breed in Great Rann of Kutch, a salt marsh in Gujarat, but their feeding grounds are the wetlands of Mumbai. This year the Thane Sanctuary is playing host to a record number of flamingos – apparently some 54,000 greater flamingos and 65,000 lesser flamingos. A river of pink amidst the blue waters of the creek.

This was an impromptu trip; had I known, I would have brought my DSLR which I generally use for bird photography. In the event, I only had a little underwater digicam whose zoom lens tops out at 120mm (35mm equivalent). All this to say: I don't have a good photo of these magnificent birds in flight; this is the best I could do:

But oh my, it was just glorious to see them in real life. The photo doesn't really capture their vivid colours, nor their gangly grace as they run through the water and take flight.

If you're in Mumbai between November and March, go see the flangamingos.

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Shunbun no Hi: Stereo Kingfisher

Stereo kingfisher is not a species (this is in fact a white-throated kingfisher, which has appeared before on this blog). The image above is a stereo pair – two photos shot from slightly different perspectives, mimicking the binocular vision of the human eye. When viewed through a stereoscope, the pair merges into a single, three-dimensional image.

The same trick – merging into 3D – can also be done with the naked eye. Or at least, some people can do it. The technique is called free-viewing. If you'd like to try and learn, I wrote an article about it for Stereoscopy Blog.

There are special stereo cameras which take two instantaneous photos from different angles. I don't have one, so I use a normal camera. This means I'm limited to 'sequential stereo' – take a photo, move the camera a bit to one side, take another photo. If there is movement between frames, you get a stereo glitch (this post has nice examples; do a text search for 'goth').

Kingfisher with crab is a terrible subject for sequential stereo. The bird was repeatedly bashing the crab against the metal rail (I also took a video, which I will share if I can edit it to my satisfaction). I took at least 20 photos before I got a pair where there was no movement between frames. But what is life without challenges.

Happy equinox, everyone!

Friday, 17 December 2021

People on the Corner

Snow story from my friend who lives in the Midwestern United States (via text messages):

My other roommate went out and shoveled for a few minutes, but she is working today so couldn't do a lot. I told her I was going to go out and shovel some. I went out and saw that two of my neighbors had started. Sally, the nice old lady across the street, and Dirk, her neighbor who likes to take care of her.

Sally owns a snowblower, and Dirk likes to use it. So I went out and met both of them and started shoveling while talking with Sally (and Dirk was running the snowblower). She is a sweetheart. She said "People on the corner have to take care of each other" 😭❤️ 

Sunday, 5 December 2021

Español

I'm sure this is a not uncommon experience, but I've noticed over the years that I seem to have a sort of tipping point for hobbies. Usually, when I get into something, I tend to get really into it – spend a lot of time on the hobby, acquire equipment if necessary, join clubs or classes, borrow or buy books, pore over online resources.

After that initial honeymoon phase, some hobbies don't last. Either my interest wanes (which happened with knitting, tree identification, learning Sanskrit...) or I lose access to the conditions which made it easy for me to pursue the hobby (e.g. scuba-diving when I left Japan, beekeeping when I left LSE where we had a rooftop apiary).

But there appears to be a kind of undefined tipping-point beyond which a hobby or interest tends to become a lasting one – learning Japanese, film developing and darkroom printing, drawing, reading (the last two have been hobbies for as long as I can remember). Of course, there are phases when I pursue some hobbies more energetically while others are on the backburner (blogging, yikes). But for what it's worth, I think if a hobby has passed the tipping-point – which blogging certainly has – I am unlikely to give it up altogether.

Last year I started learning Spanish on Duolingo. The app shows you your "streak" – how many successive days you practised. Initially I had a streak of about 40 days, which seemed like a good start. Then I stopped for whatever reason and didn't pick it up again for months. I thought I had quit before my tipping point.

But to my own surprise, I somehow started again, and as of today I have a 210-day streak. It's not like I practice for very long – around 10 minutes to half an hour per day – but it all adds up. I'll go out on a limb and say it: I think I'm out of the woods now.

Monday, 16 August 2021

Horntail Snail

This is fast becoming Sroyon's Backyard Fauna Blog (in-joke), but fear not, I have a non-faunal post in the works. (By "in the works" I mean I had an idea for a post about a month ago which should, by rights, take me about 15 minutes to write, but I still have not done it. I am slow.)

Speaking of slow, I saw some snails last night, crawling around after the rains. Ran inside, grabbed my camera, macro lens and flash (off-camera, for more dramatic light) and fired off a few shots.

Mike Johnston says that in a dog photo, the nose should be in focus (though I tend to focus on the eyes – sorry Mike!) But what about a snail, specifically, one that's crawling away from the camera: shell or antennae? Even at f/16, I couldn't get its entire body in focus. But snails are patient subjects, so I tried both. Which do you prefer?

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Monsoon Feast

After heavy rain in the last few days, large numbers of unidentified winged insects emerged in our backyard. Other animals had a field day, picking them off in midair and on the ground. In the space of about fifteen minutes, I saw white-throated kingfishers, sparrows, common mynas, pied mynas, common tailorbirds and (I think) an oriental garden lizard – all preying on the luckless insects.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Shunbun no Hi: Solargraph

My latest hobby is making pinhole cameras from household waste, recording images on film or photosensitive paper. I don't know anyone in person who is into pinhole photography, but thanks to social media (mostly Facebook groups), I've connected with, and gotten a lot of advice and tips from, the very helpful worldwide community of pinhole photographers.

A few months ago, when I was a total newbie, a photographer from Oaxaca, Mexico even offered to do a one-on-one Zoom session to answer some of my questions and show me her studio. At one point I said something like "I didn't understand this design, but as you know I'm a beginner..." She chuckled and said, "Yes but I can tell you're enthusiastic. By this time next year you'll have made at least ten pinhole cameras."

I laughed at the time, but I already have six, and I'm planning a seventh.

My latest pinhole camera is made from a beercan. The goal is to create a solargraph: an ultra-long exposure stretching over weeks, months or even years, capturing the Sun's trail across the sky.

I thought Spring Equinox would be a nice day to set it up, and accordingly I tied it to a betel-nut tree behind our flat. (I added arrows to show the pinhole in the first pic, and the camera in the second.)

My camera, as you can see, is made from a can of Kingfisher beer. A few hours after setting it up – coincidence of coincidences – I saw an actual kingfisher sitting on the wire just behind it. Perhaps it was the same bird which featured in my last Shunbun no hi post.

Happy equinox, everyone.

Friday, 8 January 2021

Sunbird and Crows

I once posted a photo of a sunbird through the patterned glass of our windowpanes. If you were hankering for a clearer view, you're about to get your wish… six years later. It's unlikely that this is the same bird, though; this one flew into our verandah recently.

But I do like our patterned windowpanes, and views of birds therethrough (I had to check if this is a word; not that I would have refrained from using it if it weren't). So here is one of crows outside our kitchen window.

The first photo was taken with a full-frame DSLR; the second with my Google Pixel 2. It's a mid-range phone, and outdated – at least by smartphone standards. But it takes excellent pictures, and of course, it's almost always with me. In the last couple of years, I've taken some phone pics which I'm quite pleased with.