Thursday, February 19, 2009

Winter isn't over till it's over

Winter Isn't Over Till It's Over
After all this time, it still fools me every year: We have the midwinter thaw, and most -- if not quite all -- the snow disappears. People get carried away and start running in shorts and shirtsleeves. I start to think winter is almost over. And then a new arctic cold front moves in. It showed itself in the window this morning.

Technical note to those so inclined: I've shot this window in the past, and the strong backlighting always posed exposure and post processing issues, since you had to choose whether to expose for the window or for the star, and then fix the other in post processing. The Nikon D90's Active D-Lighting, set to auto, took care of it. This is straight out of the camera.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Seeing is not believing

Seeing Is Not Believing
Odd accidental optical illusion as I got out of the car this morning: I love how the converging lines seem to pull the bottom right corner of the photo upward, making the bottom margin seem crooked, slanting upward as it goes to the right. Looking at it makes me feel queasy. I want to grab it and just straighten it out. And yet the margin is perfectly straight. I had to pull grid lines over it a couple times to double check that I hadn't somehow cropped it at an angle. And I still can't help but see it as crooked. Seeing is not believing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Encounter on Lake Mendota

I first saw the bicyclist as a tiny speck in the middle of Lake Mendota's frozen wasteland. Gradually he came closer. He looked as if he had ridden his mountain bike all the way across the lake. When he got to the Statue of Liberty, he got off his bike and stared -- like a weary traveler discovering that the mirage on the horizon is actually real, or at least something physically resembling reality. Only in Madison.

My days of watching analog TV ended the way they began: With a test pattern

My Analog Days Ended the Way They Began: With a Test Pattern
At least it had a certain circular sense of closure to it: The first thing I saw on TV as a kid was this hypnotic test pattern, and it's the last thing I saw the night that the analog sets started turning into pumpkins in Madison -- at least for people who want to watch ABC, NBC or CBS.

NBC 15 apparently couldn't wait to show their analog viewers what they thought of them. At about 11:57, they started playing "The Star Spangled Banner." They couldn't even wait till midnight to unceremoniously kick the rabble off the bus. The national anthem was followed by about a minute of test pattern, and then promptly at midnight, in a avalanche of static and snow, channel 15 disappeared from the analog airwaves forever.

The three local "early adopters" who stuck with the original Feb. 17 date said that only 1 percent of their viewers would be affected (channel 3 switches at noon, and channel 27 at 1:00 p.m). Doesn't strike me as plausible, but we'll soon see.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day at Trader Rose

Trader Rose in B&W
On Valentine's Day, they should change their name to Trader Rose. There was the usual rush of flower buyers at Trader Joe's on Monroe Street. They're wonderful -- good prices, not just on roses, but for incredible bouquets in a variety of assortments and prices to brighten up the house this time of year. And a knack for retail display -- the flowers just explode in your face as you enter the store. Not a parking space to be had. I parked up the street. Good thing for Madison florists that there's just one Trader Joe's in Madison -- for now.

Trader Rose in ColorI also love it as a photographer. The lighting is good, and almost anyplace you aim even a point and shoot will give beautiful results. Of course, you are faced by the usual question facing the flower photographer: black and white, or color? Black and white emphasizes the beautiful forms. Unfolding rose petals, especially, reflect the light in soft, delicate nuances that look great in black and white. But with all that color, how can you pass on the opportunity to sample nature's incredible paintbox? There is no correct answer.