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International Space Station In A Flower

Clerodendrum bungei, commonly called the Rose Glory Bower

Wikipedia says: Clerodendrum bungei, commonly known as rose glory bower, glory flower or Mexican hydrangea (though not a true Hydrangea), is a species of flowering plant in the deadnettle family. It is native to China, and is commonly grown in gardens as an ornamental shrub. It has escaped from cultivation and is naturalized in the Americas.

I saw this plant in the gardens at Wimpole Hall here in Cambridgeshire, and I was struck by how very spaceship-like the flowers look close up. The arms reminded me of an International Space Station circling in space.

I had no idea what the plant was, so I posted a photo on Twitter and A to Z Flowers identified it. (Go take a look at their website – and this is their twitter handle @atozflowers).

Here’s a closeup – click on it to see a bigger version. Interesting, isn’t it.

Word Of The Day: Fastigiate

Fastigiate / adjective / botany
(of a tree or shrub) having the branches more or less parallel to the main stem.

This is Quercus Fastigiata – an oak with a pyramid or fastigiate shape. According to the description on the little plaque next to the tree, it is a rare species. None of the other trees had plaques, so that in itself says that this is a rare species.

I looked at the leaves before I saw the plaque. I saw oak leaves and I couldn’t believe it. No oak in my experience was this shape. It was going against all previous information on oak-ness. Where were the spreading branches and the ruminants sheltering under it like in this ‘proper’ oak?

You learn something every day.

Not Perfectly Normal

Here we have a perfectly normal scene of four people having a coffee in a cafe at a National Trust property in Cambridgeshire. Their conversation has died down and soon they will stand up and leave.

And when they do they will know that they must not cross the rope barrier. It is there to separate those coming from those leaving. It is a Coronavirus barrier.

They will have to exit to the right of this scene, make a right turn again and then walk along the corridor of ropes. That is the way they will exit the cafe to reduce their chances of being close to anyone else.

The rules in England are that you have to wear a mask in a shop or anywhere in a public space indoors, except at a hairdresser’s or when you are eating or drinking.

Trees

Here are trees at the National Trust property. I had previously set my camera ISO set at 3200, and forgot for a while when taking shots outdoors. I have taken enough photographs that it should have occurred to me to wonder why I was able to use such a high shutter speed, but it didn’t occur to me.

I found out something in the process, which is that the camera holds up very well to high ISO. So something good came of it.

Click the photo of the trees to see the bigger version.

 photograph of trees at Wimpole Hal

And here is a crop from near the centre of the frame. The area shown represents less than one sixtieth of the area of the whole photograph, and shows how good the camera and lens combination (Fuji X-T2 and 18-55mm lens) is. And that combination is not the pinnacle of capability in today’s cameras.

crop from centre of photograph of trees at Wimpole Hal

Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree

I took this photograph about a week ago. Since then it has rained, more than once. And the grass is now a lush yellow-green.

Were it not that it is raining, I would walk across there and photograph it again.

The way I constructed that last sentence reminds me of the case of a man who was charged with common assault. He said something along the lines of ‘If this were Assize time, I would run you through with my sword.’ But it was not Assize time (the time when the Assize courts were sitting) and so his words were found by the court not to be an assault (a provocation) to the other man.

I completely forgot the name of the case, which is not surprising seeing as how many years have passed since I learned about it. But I remembered that idea behind it and when I put ‘Assize time’ into Google, it straight away gave me Turberville v Savage 1669.

Natural vs Darker: Photoshop

With layers in Photoshop one can make changes so that the image does not reflect reality.

Out walking a day or two ago we passed this alleyway. I photographed it for the shapes and then looked at it on my computer just now. The patch of blue was still a patch of blue (cue prisoners looking out from their cell windows), but the wall at the top nearest the camera implied that there was sky directly above.

So I darkened the wall to see what it would look like. I isolated the light area above the arch nearest the camera and copied it and then set the new layer to ‘Multiply’. That preserved the detail in the wall and darkened it. It duplicated that layer, which was automatically set to ‘Multiply’ and so it darkened the area still more. One more duplicated layer and it was dark enough.

Except there was a lot of aqua in the layer because the wall was not white. Ot perhaps it picked up reflected light from the sky. However it was, I went back to the beginning and this time I desaturated the colour in the arch before making the new layers.

street scene showing a patch of blue sky above enclosed arches and walls in Cambridge
near wall darkened to illustrate Photoshop capabilities to set mood is a street scene showing a patch of blue sky above enclosed arches and walls in Cambridge

I Designed A ‘Save Water’ Poster

Cambridge Water sent their bill and asked people to design a poster illustrating the need to save water. The company is pledging its part to repair pipes etc.

So I made this.

If you know the work of Saul Bass, who made film posters in a style all his own, then you will see the homage to his style in this poster.

In Search Of A Small Camera

Something light that would slip in a pocket and has good image quality, that’s what I am looking for. It doesn’t have to have a viewfinder; I can compose in the rear screen. There are a couple of current contenders – the Ricoh GR series (I, II, and III) and the Fuji XF10. Neither is cheap, but the Fuji is cheaper by a good margin.

They both have 28mm-equivalent lenses. That’s a wider angle than I am used to. To get a good shot that fills the action, you really have to be very close. If you achieve that, then you get a shot with a perspective that makes you feel you are right in the scene.

That’s good if you are somewhere where there is that immersive scenario, but that doesn’t always present itself.

Looking For Clues In Old Photos

I am looking back through some old photos as I write this. Here is one I shot with a Nikon D40, and the EXIF data says that the focal length was 38mm (so I must have used the 18-55mm kit lens).

Three Men

This one of three men in a church was also shot at 35mm. I shot it with a Nikon D200 with a 12-24mm lens at 24mm. That’s 36mm full-frame equivalent.

The EXIF data tells me I shot it at ISO 800 at 1/100th of a second at f6.3.

The scene where the three men are sitting is inside near the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulcre in Jerusalem, a place I have visited two or three times and could go back to with pleasure. I am not talking about the religious aspect but about the building itself.

There is the main area with the domed roof, with the light slanting down from above. And stone stairs that lead this way and that to cold rooms far down below street level, like a medieval story.

Isolation

I don’t mean to make a big polemic about this, but the pace of life before we were brought up short by the Coronavirus seemed to mean inevitably that we were often isolated.

I shot this at 50mm, which is a long way from the wide 28mm of the compact cameras I mentioned at the outset.

Women Looking In A Shop Window

One of the hallmarks of photography is how we remember where we made the shots. I can picture the street and thinking how nice was the absorption in what they were looking at.

Again, the EXIF data tells me I shot it with a 12-24mm lens at 35mm equivalent.

What this tells me is that even when I had lenses that shot wider (the 18-55 and the 12-24) I did not shoot at the widest focal length.

So why would I want to buy a camera, even a pocketable one, that has a fixed 28mm-equivalent lens?

So what I could do, and what I might do, is get a second-hand Olympus camera and a 17mm lens. Olympus cameras have micro-four-thirds sensors. That means that a 17mm lens is a 34mm full-frame equivalent. That should be OK.

WordPress: Now With GoFaster Stripe Payments

Did you get an email from WordPress.com a couple of days ago about taking payments on your WordPress.com site? If you have a Personal plan or greater * then you will have received the email.

The email explained that WordPress.com has partnered with Stripe to give website owners a simple and secure way to collect both one-time and recurring payments. It’s a way to sell products, digital downloads, services, memberships, and exclusive content, or as a way to collect donations and tips.

Tamara and I use Stripe as the payment gateway on our self hosted WooCommerce website, so I already know how easy and reliable it is to use Stripe.

Now that same ease of use has come to WP.com. And to use it you just need to add the new Payments block to any post or page on your site, and connect your Stripe account. The Happiness engineers at WP.com will help you create an account if you don’t already have one.

Here’s what else WP has to say:

you can try the Personal plan risk-free. If you aren’t totally thrilled with everything it has to offer, simply let us know any time during the first 30 days and you’ll receive a full refund.

If you decide to cancel your plan after you’ve already accepted our free custom domain, the domain is yours to keep. We simply ask that you cover our costs for the registration.

Which brings me back to my earlier post on thinking of a product. I think I have an idea now, so watch this space.

The link above is an affiliate link from WordPress *

And because I don’t like to leave a post without an image, here is my favourite duck of happiness.

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