Monday, May 26, 2014

Water Spout!

Water Spout

noun: water-spout
a rotating column of water and spray formed by a whirlwind occurring over the sea or other body of water.

A tornado...terrifying by itself.  But put that swirling tempest of wind over water, and it turns into something beautiful and terrible and fascinating all rolled into one column of water doing what water is NOT supposed to do - defy gravity.

As you probably know already (but just in case...) I live very near Lake Michigan.  Not -I'll just open my front door and fall in- close, but a short drive away close.  It's one of the biggest puddles of fresh water in the world.

I was just browsing the 'net, here, looking for ideas for the Tempest, and I came across an article from last September - we had quite the storm swirling around the lake, and it kicked up multiple water spouts over MY end of Lake Michigan. cool and/or terrifying is that - not just one, but two....TWO... the terrible two's, the dynamic duo, it takes two to tango, tea for two (imagine me cackling madly while rubbing my hands together)....TWO enormous columns of water being sucked up into the sky!

How could I resist a little Photoshop magic?

Reading the comments left behind by people who actually saw the story the day it was energized by the net...I'm both struck by the humor and sullied by the vitriol.

My favorite quotes?  "PERCH-nado!" (gotta love short and simple...) and "Good thing they don't have sharks in Lake Michigan (stealing the other guy's thunder, yes, but in a roundabout way - kudos for the laff...)  My least favorite, albeit still publishable?  "Just welcoming Michelle O to Watertown." 

Ugggg...not EVERYTHING revolves around politics, people.  Certainly not a natural event - and most certainly NOT this blog.  This is all about photography, and Photoshop, and humor and the observations of one slightly-less-than-normal Wisconsinite (that'd be me, just to make it clear).

I only wish I'd been in the vicinity, and aware it was happening, instead of reviewing cell-phone shots and old news accounts 6 months later.  I'd have braved being sucked up into the sky WITH the water for a photographic opportunity like that. 

Guess I have to settle for being good instead of being lucky, eh?

Personally, I find water to be glorious.  I think most people do - after all, we've got poets composing thousands of pages all waxing poetic (well, duh...they're poets...they do that) on the beauty and mystery of this life-giving fluid.  We've got writers putting people in situations on, above, and within the water.  Photographers take endless shots of the temperament and moods of the seas, rivers, and even the occasional mud-puddle (which reminds me...I did a series of reflections...but later, later).

We personify water in all its moods - the rough-running river is furious as it strains against its banks.  The placid pond was still and contemplative as it reflected the light of the harvest moon.  Wisps of steam curled around my toes as I lifted them from the welcoming embrace of my bathwater.

Frozen, water still fascinates.  Take an ice cube of distilled water (so you don't have all the cloudy mineral stuff...) and time-lapse it melting...or go find a video of someone else doing this on YouTube.  It's soooo cool (ahem...rim-shot, please?) because its something so normal we don't pay attention to it...unless said ice cube is watering down our drink.

Frozen water also brings out the child in all of us - we skate on it, we cut holes in it to fish on top of it, or slip a cube down our older-sister's shirt to listen to her shriek (did I ever apologize for that?).

Heated, water is no less amazing.  It's soothing, comforting, wrapping us in warm arms.  Heat it more, and it turns to steam, which we use for cleaning and generating energy.

Water is the most complex molecule on the planet, and we, as humans, are obsessed with it.  Could have something to do with 60% of us being composed of it?

We are all children of the water.  Maybe it's time we all remembered that.

I simply could NOT resist this shot.  Officer Mike Madsen of the Kenosha Police department has photo credit on the shot of the dual water spouts (I did find this image both with his name on the bottom, and without - I chose the without version, but I give credit where it's due whenever possible...) and I'll take the credit for that pesky little teapot not being able to resist adding itself to the shot...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Pigs in Spaaaaaaaaaaace!

Everyone (well, ok, not EVERYONE...but close enough) remember the Muppet Show from childhood, and a little skit that ran in a host of episodes called Pigs in Space. it was.  Ahhhhh...the 'memory fade...'

Miss Piggy.  Captian Link.  Dr. Strangepork.  Galavanting about the galaxy aboard the Swinetrek.

Looking over the wiki article on it, there were 32 episodes, had a host of merchandise to go with it, and reappeared in the albums, comics and books created after the original Muppet Show was off the air.  They even played a couple of skits for the crew of the Colombia space shuttle.  Art, invading real life - you GOTTA love it!

Did anyone not love the Muppets?  Everyone has their favorites...everyone remembers select bits from the shows.

My favorite Muppet?  How can I choose just one???

  I loved the Swedish Chef,


but I also loved Beaker and Animal.  

Fozzy tried to hard, and Gonzo was...well, Gonzo. 

 Piggy was obsessed with all things Piggy, and Kermit just wanted to run a good show - and get people to understand it ain't easy being green.

There's this photoshop tutorial site I sometimes visit - last month, they had a tutorial on how to make your own planet.  Photoshop Tutorial 

How can I possibly resist making my own planets?

**Please read the following sentence in a loud, booming, God-like voice**

 I shall call this place Heisen Berg! 

(is my Breaking Bad Fanboi status showing???)

So that's where the planet came from on the picture today - and in honor of those valliant Pigs in Space, bravely facing the Chopped Liver monster, swill-shortages, Snako-waves, Dumbo-rays and Dearth Nadir, I found a cute little stuffed pig to float in front.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Stories of Pele

A Tempestuous event if ever there was one - a volcano in the throes of eruption.  I had to delve into the 'net today to find some stories of Volcanic Gods.  Hawaii's Goddess Pele - Mistress of Fire - still gets mentions.  She's even been credited with a curse on the lava rocks and/or sand taken from her beaches.  There's a website and address out there on the 'net that people can share their stories of bad luck and send back that which they have taken from this capricious Goddess.

Described as "She-Who-Shapes-The-Sacred-Land" in ancient Hawaiian chants, the volcano goddess, Pele, was known for her passionate and volatile nature (well, she is the Goddess of Volcanoes, after all...)  It is said she lives in the craters of the Big Island's Kilauea Volcano, and has been sending flaming floes of lava down the mountain to add more land to her island since 1983.

Pele was among the first voyagers to sail to Hawaii, pursued by her angry older sister, Na-maka-o-kaha'i, Goddess of water and the sea, because Pele had seduced her husband.  As an aside, seriously, do NOT want to trifle with the Goddess of Fire - you irritate her and POOF! CRACKLE!  CHARCOAL BRIQUETTE!   Talk about a woman who's a serious hot mess!

Pele landed first on Kaua'i, but every time she thrust her o'o (digging stick) into the earth to dig a fire pit for her home, Na-maka-o-kaha'i would flood her out.  Pele moved down the chain of islands in order of their geological formation, eventually landing on the Big Island's Mauna Loa.

Na-maka-o-kaha'i simply could not send the ocean's waves high enough on Mauna Loa to drown Pele's fires, so Pele at last had a home. Here, she welcomed her brothers, who still manifest... Kane-hekili as thunder, Ka-poho-i-kahi-ola as explosions, Ke-ua-a-kepo in showers of fire, and Ke-o-ahi-kama-kaua in spears of lava that escape from fissures during eruptions. Her other brother, Ka-moho-ali'i, king of the sharks,is said to hold the water of life and ability to bring back the dead, and has a special cliff that is sacred to him.

Legends about Pele, her rivals and her lovers are plentiful. Most of the lovers she took were not lucky enough to escape with their lives when she hurled molten lava at them, trapping them in odd misshapen pillars of rock that dot volcanic fields to this day. 

One lover who proved a match for Pele was Kamapua'a, a pig-demi-god who hid the bristles that grew down his back by wearing a cape. He and Pele were at odds from the beginning; she covered the land with barren lava, he brought torrents of rain to extinguish her fires and called the wild boars to dig up the land, softening it so seeds could grow.

Pele and Kamapua'a raged against each other until her brothers begged her to give in, as they feared Kamapua'a's storms would soak all the fire sticks and kill Pele's power to restore fire. In Puna, at a place called Ka-lua-o-Pele, where the land still shows marks of a titanic battle, legend says Kamapua'a finally caught and ravaged Pele. The two remained tempestuous lovers until a child was born, then Kamapua'a sailed away and Pele was free to once again pursue and punish lovers at her whim.

To this day, tales of Pele's power and peculiarities continue. Whispered encounters with Pele include those of drivers who pick up an old woman dressed all in white accompanied by a little dog on roads in Kilauea National Park, only to look in the mirror to find the back seat empty. Pele's face has mysteriously appeared in photographs of fiery eruptions, and most people who live in the islands-whether Christian, Buddhist, Shinto, or other-speak respectfully of the ancient goddess. After all, she has destroyed more than 100 structures on the Big Island since 1983, and perhaps even more awesome than that, she has added more than 70 acres of land to the island's southeastern coastline.

How does Pele like her tea?  I'm guessing she likes it hot, black, and sweet, with no cream or lemon.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pictures are easy...words are hard

I find myself at a loss for words...which is odd, being one of my hobbies in the past was writng short stories. 

I started writing in 8th grade (yea, Junior High) - just little snippets, a little situational story here and there, as I worked my way through growing up.  If a particularly stressful incident occured (and who doesn't have the whole growing pains thing when growing up?) a short story would emerge from my psyche and I'd go through the whole pen to paper routine.

I'd usually feel better after putting my hero/heroine through her paces.  Sometimes, the stories would have NOTHING to do with my situation, but just the act of writing would be enough to work through whatever was banging around in my brain.

I've since moved on to other forms of expression to work through life stresses.  Don't get me wrong, I still write plenty - on Facebook, on blogs, on 'net forums...but the last creative eruption that involved more words than a sarcastic one-liner happened to me around 4 years ago.

Hmmm - it was not long after that last emergence that I finally figured out I had a good photographic eye.

Personally, I've known for a long time that words are my way of processing pain.  If I'm feeling strung out, depressed, or intently emotional, I start pouring out words.  Granted, I've upgraded from the pen & paper routine (keyboards and documentation software are wonderful things), but the impetus is the same - be all beat up inside, and out come the words. 

My blackest periods ALWAYS involve really bad poetry...I'll accept thanks now that I'm NOT sharing...

I guess this means that I'm well-adjusted now, (but not normal...I'll NEVER be normal), because words are hard...

I'm not alone - Many people throughout history have processed their pain through creative expression.  

Van Gogh suffered from seizures and is now thought to have been bipolar - he would jump between furious periods of frenzied work to exhaustion and black depression.  He also was an avid user of absinthe and vodka, which probably exacerbated his condition.  He ended his life early with a self-inflicted gunshot (although the gun was never found) and he is most famous for cutting off his own ear for a love-interest. 

Tchaikovsky was a homosexual man in a time and place where such 'unnatural' appetites were answered with imprisonment, scorn, torture, and death.  He married to keep the fiction of a normal life intact, which lead to some wonderful works as he processed the pain of a loveless marriage.

Edvard Munch once wrote:
"My afflictions belong to me and my art-‑they have become one with me. Without illness and anxiety, I would have been a rudderless ship."
"My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness," he once wrote. "Without anxiety and illness, I am a ship without a rudder....My sufferings are part of my self and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art."

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"My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness," he once wrote. "Without anxiety and illness, I am a ship without a rudder....My sufferings are part of my self and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art."

Read more:
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12!
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter
"My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness," he once wrote. "Without anxiety and illness, I am a ship without a rudder....My sufferings are part of my self and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art."

Read more:
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12!
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter
He suffered from panic attacks, depression, various phobias, insomnia, and paranoia.  He spent the last 35 years of his life in almost total isolation.  His painting 'The Scream' is his most iconic image.

And Beethoven - who I couldn't resist adding that sneaky little teacup to...Beethoven has been described as 'a passionate man who carried his feelings on his sleeve.'  He is thought to have suffered from manic/depression, showing periods of depression accompanied by suicidal thoughts and periods of elation with scores of ideas.  He was also very intolerant of others, often coming to blows with them or throwing things at servants.

Beethoven has been praised as one of the greatest composers in history, and I agree.  He had a way with music, a way to infuse it with emotional content, that you just don't see in the bits of musical 'product' that are played on the radio today.  

My favorite piece?  It has to be "Quasi una fantasia"(almost a fantasy - Italian) - better known as the Moonlight Sonata.  He composed this piece in 1801 and dedicated it to one of his pupils.  It is rumored that after the dedication, he offered a proposal, but her parents forbid the match.

Guess the old chap will have to make due with a nice cup of tea?


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Teacup returns!

The teacup returns today - with a brew that is not for the faint of heart. 

I've taken up a bit of learning on the world wide web - taking write up's that people have put for public consumption to create images in photoshop.  Now...just so we're clear...I LOVE Photoshop.  I see the potential in adjusting my photos, and crafting something that wasn't entirely there before.

It took me a LONG time to realize that photography is just as much an art form as more 'traditional' mediums such as paint, chalk, ink, clay and so on.  I always thought that photography was just capturing someone else's art form.

WRONG.  There's the eye to consider.  There's how you frame the shot.  And, yes, there's some luck there in capturing just the right amount of light and freezing the movement (although there are some interesting shots I've taken that showcase that movement...I'll have to show 'em off sometime).  There's skill and competence with your equipment.  Everyone can learn to handle the complexity of a DSLR, but I've also seen some amazing shots (taken a few, too) with a cheap point & shoot.

The filling in the cup is from a 'shop tutorial, on how to make a hurricane with the program.  Once I was done with the instructions, I got to tweak it further - adjusting the color to make it luminescent, and adjusting the perspective to make it seem as if you're looking at it from across the surface, rather than directly above it.  For the cup's illumination, I have a couple of those novelty light-up ice cubes - they rotate between 4-5 different colors - one in the cup, and one behind it.

I LOVE these ice cubes - they give me just enough light to dramatize the objects I'm shooting, and are small enough to be hidden quite easily.

The longer I stay at this blog thing, the more I see it morphing from the original teapot and teacup motif to other, just as interesting things, to take photos of.  Maybe I'll treat you to the ice cubes next...or a zen sand garden, or some of the tutorials in 'Shop (I made a planet a couple of weeks back!) - so STAY TUNED