Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A frog a day

Holy jumpin' amphibian batman!

It's been 3 days in a row that we've had frogs outside the dining room. First was the graceful tree frog from the last post, then yesterday was this Green-thighed frog:

And tonight was a tiny little Eastern Sedgefrog.

By the way, I find most of the critter names for this blog from one book, so I figure I should at least mention it. It's called Wildlife Of Greater Brisbane from the Australian Museum. John Passfield recommended it and it's been really helpful.

Anyway, sedge frogs are quite common and we hear them all the time, but this is the first time I've seen one.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

More frog pictures

What do we have here? Another frog. The same one as last week?

It was in a really cool froggy pose tonight so I couldn't resist taking pictures. Here you go:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wet Season

The wet season has begun here in Brisbane. Big showers yesterday and today have brought out the rain critters. That includes toads and frogs. Here's a Graceful Treefrog we saw this evening clinging to our dining room window. Sticky!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Leonard the Cane Toad

This is Leonard. He's a cane toad. He comes to say hi every night outside our dining room window, so I named him. We think he uses the light to hunt delicious crunchy Christmas beetles.

I know I'm not supposed to like cane toads because they're an invasive pest and they're dangerous to domestic animals but LOOK AT THIS FACE !

Love me

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blue Tongue Skink

Found this little fella in our garden yesterday so I started taking pictures. It almost looks like a chubby snake with little legs. Click on the picture to watch the video. You might even see his beautiful blue tongue...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

First snake in a LONG time

I spotted this little fellow while we were having breakfast. It's a young green tree snake, like the one Clo saw last year on April fool's. It didn't stay very long, just passing through the garden. Green tree snakes are not venomous and don't even have fangs.

It's been over a year since we saw a snake in the wild so I was pretty stoked about this little guy.

Clo ... not so much.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Photo editing for beginners

Congrats to all the new photographers on completing your course. You'll no doubt have lots of things to practice so make sure you get out there and take some shots while it's still fresh in your mind.

When you come back and you're ready to put your pics up on your blog, take a moment to consider some simple photo editing to make those shots really stand out.

For many people "Photoshopping" is a bad word that involves making models skinnier and boobs bigger. But that's not what photo editing software was intended for. Just as a film photographer would spend some time in the dark room getting the right print, many consider photo editing as the "digital darkroom" where you can get the most out of your photos.

The other misconception is that it's really hard to learn, well that one is true ... Photoshop has a steep learning curve. That's why I recommend you use something simpler to get started.

Paint.NET is a great little free photo editing program for windows that allows you to do the basic adjustments without needing a 1000-page manual.

Unfortunately, Paint.NET lacks a few basic plugins ... but that's OK, I wrote them just for you!
(Install this plugin set once you have installed Paint.NET)

Got everything installed? Good ... let's start!

There are a a few things that often need adjusting, so it's good to learn how to spot them and then apply the right correction in software.

  1. Exposure - Maybe you didn't get your exposure settings just right, or maybe the scene tricked your camera into taking incorrect exposure. That's easy to fix. But spotting exposure errors is a little harder and takes some practice. I'll show you some examples of incorrect exposure.

    Overexposed (too light) Your camera took its exposure measurement on something dark in a bright scene.

    Underexposed (too dark) Your camera took its exposure measurement on something light in a dark scene

    Washed out colors (happens sometimes when shooting towards the sun)

Fixing exposure is usually just a question of brightness/contrast. But the standard Brightness/Contrast that comes with photo editing software is useless to fix photos. It will brightnen your blacks and make white hightlights look grey. That's where you need Levels adjustments. It's a like the Tide(tm) of brightness/Contrast; it keeps your whites white and your darks dark. It can be found under the "Adjustments" menu at the top of Paint.NET and it's called "Simple Levels..."

The basic idea is you want to make the most of the color curve in the middle (called a histogram). Notice the three arrows under the curve (black, grey and white), these are your adjustments. For an average scene, you want to drag the black cursor towards the right until it points to the beginning of the curve. Same with the white cursor (but moved left), or you can hit the "Auto" button. Then using the middle (grey) cursor, adjust your contrast without changing what's black and what's white. Go ahead, try it on the images above see how Levels adjustments can save a bad photo! Play around with all three cursors to get a good feel of what they do. And use the Preview tick box to get a quick before-after of your work.

Levels adjustments have saved this boring picture !

Sometimes an image will only have a gap on one side, not both, that's ok, you don't need to touch all three to fix an image, you don't even need to touch it all at if the exposure is correct. But get used to at least looking at the histogram when you're reviewing your pictures, you'll soon get an "eye" to spot which pictures actually need fixing.

2. White Balance - This one is easier to fix but harder to spot. When your camera takes a picture it tries to judge the color of the light. Light isn't always white, but our eye does a good job at adjusting to make it look white. Your camera tries to do this too, but doesn't always succeed. The color of the light also plays on how an image "feels" when you look at it. Skin tones look bad when the light is "cold" (blue tint) and make people look cold or sick. "Warm" (yellow) light on skin looks healthier and flattering. Using a flash often results in weird color tints as well. To correct these we go to the "Adjustments" menu again and select "Simple White Balance..."

Correction is just a matter of moving the temperature slider to make the image warmer or colder. (Try +0.25 to +0.30 on the example image above, remember to use the Preview tick box to preview changes as these may be subtle)

3. Sharpening - All images can benefit from a little bit of sharpening. Pros sharpen ALL their pictures before publishing. It can really help your photos stand out. Just remember to sharpen as the last step (after resizing), right before saving your final photo for posting. To sharpen in Paint.NET goto the "Effects" menu and select "Photo ..." then "Sharpen". A small value (1 to 5) should be enough to sharpen your picture without looking fake, no Preview tick box though, I didn't write this one :-(

Subtle difference, but the sharpened one below shows more detail around the eye.

That's the three main things I recommend doing everytime you work on a picture. Levels, White Balance and Sharpening. Once you get used to spotting errors, you can breeze through a dozen pictures in 5 minutes.

So there, more new things to practice. Have fun ... and lets see those pics!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lorikeets, Guns ... and Roses

My first video with the new camera ... crazy birds!
(make sure sound is on)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Return of the Water Dragon

I've been seeing more and more of this little water dragon behind the house. I'd like to think it's the one we found last year in our garage and that's it's growing up nicely with all the delicious bugs that hang around those retaining wall boulders. I managed to get a few shots before it got spooked and went back into its little rock home.

See you around, little fella !

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Night sounds

There's one thing that's very particular about Australia's animals: they don't shut up at night!

Sometimes it's funny, like when bats fight over ripe fruit, sometimes it's REALLY annoying, like when 50+ cockatoos do fly-by's screaming right next to your bedroom window at 5 am. And sometimes it's just spooky, like when you hear this at 2am ...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Monitor lizards in the glass house mountains

We went for a hike around mount Tibrogargan on Monday and we saw 5 or 6 different monitor lizards (they call'em Goannas here). Some were shy and scurried off to climb trees as soon as they spotted us. Others didn't really care, as long as we stayed a couple of meters away. Here's a BIG one (~1.5m) foraging for food around the staging area.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lizards of the new year !

Well, it's been  a while since I posted something new, and what better way to start the year than the critter that started it all, the gecko !

I got these pictures of an Asian house gecko that hunts outside our office window at night. 

Check out those sticky feet !

As well as some video of hunting for little bugs ... pretty cool !

I spotted this baby skink outside the other day. I guess it's that time of year where the babies are left to fend for themselves. This little guy was small, 4 cm at most with tail.

Later that day I also saw this grasshopper, look at the loooong pointy head.