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Autumn Leaves

Over on Nerd In The Brain the latest Go Learn, Go Play challenge is to look at leaves.Sometimes I feel down at this time of the year as things start to die off, but there are still lots of interesting things to see just during the Autumn. With the leaves changing to all sorts of beautiful colours I decided to set out with my camera to see if I could capture them.

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Is It Right To Interfere? (Letting Nature Take Its Course)

As an animal enthusiast I can’t help but feel a strong desire to want to interact with them, but I’ve become increasingly wary of how my own actions might affect them. For example, I use to enjoy feeding bread to the ducks – as I’m sure many of us have done -, but later found out that the wrong food can damage their feathers. I’ve noticed that some parks now sell a healthier alternative to give them. We feel like we’re being kind by feeding them, but quite often it’s not the right thing to do. After we’ve gone the animals still have to continue finding their own food and it’s important they know how to do this. In Canada they don’t want you to feed the chipmunks because they’ll struggle in the winter if they become too reliant on us. There are also many other considerations, such as how attracting wild animals can cause problems for the people that live nearby.

A while ago I watched a photography program where they were observing nature down by a river. At one point a duckling fell away from its mother and couldn’t find its way back again. The photographer could do nothing but sit and watch the events unfold, tears brimming in his eyes. He later explained that he follows a rule of no interference. I’ve seen a few wildlife documentaries where it might seem harsh for the camera crew to just sit by filming, but from a journalistic point of view the goal is to show nature doing its own thing with as little interference as possible. While not everything in the world is pleasant to see, it’s still important to document and we can learn a lot about animals by watching how they perform activities such as hunting. Depending on the situation it might not be feasible or safe to help out either.

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Canary Island Cats

cat07One thing that quickly becomes apparent when you visit The Canary Islands is that there are a lot of stray cats. We usually try not to get involved with such cats, but we were given very little choice. On our first visit we were taken off guard by a large group of kittens gathering outside one of the windows. We opened the shutters to let the sunlight in and they were just sat there, staring up at us meowing. Then a brave ginger one made a leap and the rest followed. Before we knew it we had dozens of cats running around the bungalow and had to guide them back out. I think the previous resident had been feeding them or something because they seemed to hang around where we were staying. I couldn’t sit on the patio without having them attempt to jump up onto my knee. They were very entertaining however; On this one night they were playing on this lilo, jumping onto it from a greater height and bouncing off. Although the lilo looked deflated the next day so I wouldn’t recommend leaving them out.

Making themselves comfortable in our lodgings

Making themselves comfortable in our lodgings

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Supermoon Bloodmoon

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On the 27th – 28th of September 2015 there was a rare occurrence of a supermoon blood moon. A supermoon is when there is a full moon at its nearest point to Earth, which happens 4 to 6 times every year; it’s also known as a perigee moon, the closest point of any given month. A blood moon can occur when the Earth moves between the sun and the moon; The light refracts through the Earth’s atmosphere resulting in the red colouring. A lunar eclipse can happen between 0 to 3 times a year. On there own these events are not unusual, but it was 30 years ago when they last coincided and it will be a long time before it happens again. It was also a harvest moon, which is the closest full moon to the Autumn Equinox (when day and night is equal.)

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Normally it’d be too cloudy or cold for me to be willing to sit out all night to observe such an event, but luckily I happened to be on holiday at the time. I was able to sit out until 3 in the morning quite comfortably on my sunbed. The moon first appeared full and very bright and the patio was amazingly well lit. Gradually the Earth’s shadow moved across the moon, changing it to a dark red circle. It was fascinating to see it for myself first-hand. Afterwards the process would have reversed, but I was ready to collapse into bed by that point.

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Lunar Eclipse

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Moon

Taken the night after the Lunar Eclipse

The Creative Mind

There are a few creative people in my family with an interest in subjects such as art and photography. As such, I always felt like I was encouraged to be creative too, even though I later realized I had a strong interest in computers. When I studied game programming I found that it was actually quite rare to come from such a background and most of the people I talked to were better at subjects like Maths and Science. When they noticed that I was able to create decent looking sprites to put in my games they would comment on how creative I was. One of my closest friends would always put himself down, claiming that he just wasn’t capable of being creative. I always remember one of the things I learnt as a kid from a book about drawing animals, that you should never say you can’t, but that you’re learning. I believe that we restrict ourselves by forming such strong beliefs of what we’re not capable of. As such I would try to encourage my friend whenever it was required of us to do something more creative.

A lot of people seem to link creativity to skills such as painting or writing, but it’s actually beneficial in other areas too. To be creative is to be able to generate lots of ideas and then eventually hone in on a solution to a problem. Creativity isn’t a talent, but something that all people can posses. People that are considered to be creative however, tend to be more curious and inquisitive in nature. According to The Bedside Book Of Psychology by Christian Jarrett and Joannah Ginsburg (Cognition, creativity, p 64-65) people that rank high on intelligence test are usually less creative because it requires a different mindset.

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Head In The Clouds: A Go Play, Go Learn Challenge

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The next ‘Go Play, Go Learn challenge‘ on ‘Nerd In The Brain‘ was to turn our attention to the clouds (the last one was insects.) I decided to spend a bit of time learning about them and also took some photographs while keeping note of the weather. During the short space of a week I photographed a variety of clouds. The weather was mostly calm and warm, but there was the odd spot of rain and even a small thunderstorm at the end.

Clouds And The Weather

Clouds are really important as they bring rain and offer shade from the sun. Knowing how to identify them can also be an indicator as to what to expect from the weather (incredibly useful for anybody that enjoys outdoor activities.) It’s in a loop, where the right conditions affects the formation of clouds, but in turn the clouds affect the conditions. They have an impact on the climate by reflecting incoming light from the sun or radiating back heat rising from the surface.

How Are Clouds Formed

During the morning the sun heats up the earth. Throughout the day different areas heat up at different rates. Thermals (up-drafts of warm air) start to rise and water evaporates from rivers and lakes. As the air rises to where the pressure is lower it expands and cools, causing condensation to occur (when water changes from gas to liquid.) There are usually other particles such as dust for the droplets to hold onto and they are light enough to float in the air. Once the droplets are big enough they fall to earth as rain and the process starts again. There’s an interesting experiment you can try to see how they are created, using a bottle, warm water and matches.

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A Ranking of My Creative/Artistic Abilities

I came across this post ‘A Ranking of My Creative/Artistic Abilities‘ on the blog ‘Things Matter‘ where people have been ordering and describing what they think they are best at. I couldn’t think of a reason not to join in and give this a go, so here it is:

  1. Drawing/Painting: I come from a very creative and artistic family and so have always been encouraged to spend my time drawing and painting. I don’t get as much time to do it now as I use to, but I still like to keep up with this skill so that I can create images for the games I like to build. Whenever I have the time I will also upload images to Deviant Art.
  2. Photography: I love going out with my camera to take photos. It encourages me to go out, take an interest in things and to explore my surroundings more. I’ve enjoyed taking photos since I got my first digital camera as a kid. I upload a lot of my images to Flickr.
  3. Video Editing/Directing: I use to really enjoy putting movies together using video editing software. We use to meet up and share the movies that we created. I haven’t done this in quite a while though, but I imagine I could pick it back up again if I wanted to.
  4. Writing: I never considered myself to be great at writing, but I do enjoy doing it and took a free online course last year – start writing fiction. I also attempted NaNoWriMo. I’d like to improve this skill so that I can also write better text for my games and maybe even attempt a visual novel sometime.
  5. Editing: I need to have a bit more patience in this area. I tend to enjoy starting the creative process, but I start to get distracted by the time I get around to editing my work. I do spend a lot of time editing my photos on Photoshop however and I also have a better understanding of the importance of editing my writing.
  6. Cooking: I’m not so great at cooking (I’m the kind of person that eats to live rather than lives to eat, so food doesn’t interest me that much,) but I do try to bake something each week. You can see some of these attempts on my website, Share And Bake.
  7. Public Speaking: I don’t enjoy getting up in front of people, but I have done it in the past so I’m not incapable of it either.
  8. Dancing: I don’t feel comfortable dancing in public, but I will admit to having some fun in the privacy of my own room, in front of the computer with the music on loud.
  9. Singing: I can’t sing at all and I very rarely do even on my own. It leaves me feeling self-conscious.
  10. Acting: Other than drama at school I’ve never attempted to act before, nor do I plan to in the future.
  11. Playing Musical Instrument: Never done this before, other than messing about with keyboards and recorders when I was a little kid.

It’s Not Just About The Tools

sunset_low_qualitySometimes I worry that my work won’t be taken seriously because of the tools I’ve used to produce it. There are a few reasons for why I may not be able to use the latest or best tools, such as not being able to afford it or not having the skills to use it yet. There are times that I prefer to keep quiet about what tools or process I’ve used to develop a piece of work because I don’t feel like it makes a difference to the final piece. If I love a game or a piece of art, will knowing how it came to be change that? While I’d find it interesting, I don’t think it’d change my opinion about it.

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Identifying Butterflies

A few weeks back I noticed a really cool idea on the blog ‘Nerd In The Brain.’ They plan to set challenges every couple of weeks as an opportunity to go out and learn something new. The one that I saw was to spot insects in the garden. I wanted to give this a go, but didn’t have much luck finding anything interesting and quickly gave up. I thought back to the post after visiting a butterfly house however. Normally I’d label my photos with boring titles such as ‘butterfly on a flower,’ but instead I decided to try and identify the subjects. I actually found it to be quite fascinating once I started to read up about it.

How To Identify A Butterfly

There are many different species of butterfly and they can look similar, especially in flight, so it can be a challenge to identify them. Ideally, you need to spend a bit of time looking for field marks, such as shape, colour and patterns, while they are still. The edges of the wings can vary from smooth to wavy to pointy and with tails on the end. The patterns can be chequered, spotted, veined or include bands of colours. The way the wings rest can also be an indication as to the type of butterfly, some lie flat while others at a slight angle. Check the ventral side (below the insect) of the wing too.

There are different families and sub-families of butterflies to look out for, each with its own distinctive qualities:

  • Papilionidae – These are usually large and colourful. A majority of them are Swallowtails, named so for the distinctive tail on their hind wing. They can be found in every region except for Antarctica.
  • Nymphalidae – This is the largest of the butterfly families. They are medium to large in size and have colourful wings that lie flat when resting. The ventral side is usually dull and fairly plain in contrast, giving them the appearance of dead leaves. Most of them have a reduced pair of forelegs. This family includes Monarchs and Angelwings with the greatest number found in the tropics.
  • Pieridae – These are medium-sized and vary in colour from white to orange. Many also have black markings or spots on their wings. The colouring is caused by waste products in the body. They may also have ultraviolet markings, used during courtship. This family includes Whites and Sulphurs and they are mostly found in the tropics.
  • Riodinidae – Small to medium sized. Their wings come in vibrant structural colours of brown, red, yellow, orange and white and may also include metallic markings. Males also have reduced forelegs. Examples include Duke of Burgundy and Palmers Metalmark. They are found in the neotropics.
  • Lycaenidae – Small and quick, with brightly coloured, sometimes iridescent, wings. They have slender bodies and narrow heads and their antennae is sometimes striped in appearance (usually with white bands.) This family includes Hairstreaks and Harvesters and they inhabit temperate and tropical areas.
  • Hesperiidae – Small to medium in size with duller colours such as brown, orange and cream. They also have thicker and hairier thoraxes with smaller wings giving them a moth like appearance. When resting the forewings and hindwings rest on different planes. The antennae also have a curl or hook at the end as opposed to the usual rounded club shape. They have a quick dart like movement. Not always considered to be true butterflies, example include include Skippers, Duskywings and Cloudywings. A majority of them live in the tropics.

Sometimes moths and butterflies can be confused, but they have distinct differences. Butterflies tend to be thinner and smoother while moths have thicker and hairier bodies. Moths also have feathery antennae and are usually duller in colour. When resting their wings are held flat against their bodies as opposed to butterflies that hold them vertically. It’s also important to consider that there can be differences between the sexes such as colour, but the patterns usually remain similar.

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Are People Taking Too Many Photographs?

Thanks to phones and tablets there has been an increase in the number of people now taking photographs. With this increase I’ve also noticed a rise in the number of complaints about people taking photographs. We have to bob and weave down a street so as not to disrupt those wanting to capture the moment. I’ve been barged out the way by people wanting to take a photo, or had my own view covered by a raised camera. Some even throw themselves into harms way just to get a selfie, or now encounter every event in life with a back turned and a camera raised. Does nobody experience real life through their own eyes any more? Along with this comes the concern that photography is no longer the art that it use to be.

For the most part I think that cameras along with the internet have added to our lives. There are many events and wonders in the world that I would have never known about if it weren’t for the person that was there to capture it. I love to share my own images because I know that somewhere, somebody might take a lot of pleasure in seeing them just as I have felt from seeing what others have captured. Through sharing a photo I have taken I am also sharing my passion for the subject matter.

There has been concerns about how observing an event through a camera lens can lessen the strength of our memory of that time, but I would also argue the opposite. When I was in Conwy I stayed out and sat on the castle walls for a lot longer than I would have usually, just waiting for the sun to move so that I could see the scene in different lighting. I also kneel down or stand on top of things to alter my perspective. One of the reasons that I developed an enjoyment of photography was that it encouraged me to go out walking more and I found myself looking around at the smaller details, trying to find that thing that would make for an interesting image. It’s also the difference between wanting to take photography as a serious hobby and just wanting to capture quick snapshots as we go. Even if we now have cameras that do a lot of the work for us, composing an image well is still a skill that can take time to master. I’m not a professional though, so others probably have more to say on this.

I still think there is a time and a place for cameras however. I’ve been to numerous gigs where I’ve had to stand behind a person who was attempting to film the whole thing. At the Whitby Gothic festival an argument broke out behind me because a person with a massive camera was obscuring the views of the people behind them. The rest of us just wanted to experience and enjoy the music first hand. Official photos and concert videos of a much higher quality are often released later on anyway. Another example I often see are people taking photos of artwork in galleries – despite the no camera signs. I have heard that this can damage the paintings and it’s never going to be the same as going to see them in real life.

Even though I love photography, I am also incredibly wary of when it is not appropriate to get my camera out. Cameras are capable of opening our eyes to something, but can also put a barrier between us and what we’re experiencing. It’s great that people want to capture and share so much of the world around us, but we also need to choose when it’s better to experience an event fully for ourselves. Every once in a while it’s good to question whether or not we should be getting the camera out.

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