Digital Marble – Desert Chicory

I was going to do a blog post called ‘Circle Quotations’‘ but funny or interesting quotes about a mathematical concept are few and far between. Then I found this one-

Why is a polar bear never lost in the Arctic Circle?
Because it uses Polar Coordinates.

I think you have to be a math person to appreciate the wit, and that isn’t normally me, except I know that the ‘Digital Marbles’ I make in my photo program use a polar coordinate filter to turn square photos into circles.

I don’t know how the polar coordinate  filter works, but I like the result. The circles remind me of the marbles I played with as a child.

Are you old enough to remember when marbles and jacks were popular games? How about skipping and hop scotch; tag, hide and seek, leap frog, and yo-yos? Hula hoops! In the winter, fox and hounds, red rover (skating version), crack the whip, snowball fights and tobogganing!

I made the following two ‘marbles’ from photos of Desert Chicory.

How many degrees does a circle have?
Depends on how long it’s been in school.
-Author Unknown –

These is the original photo. Desert Chicory is a wild flower growing in Arizona.


Here are some of the other ‘marbles’ I’ve made:

Santa Claus – About the Reindeer

The Original Eight Reindeer

Santa Claus began his association with Reindeer in 1821 – an event that was chronicled in a narrative published by a New York printer in a booklet called ‘A New Year’s Present’:

Old Santeclaus with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night.
O’er chimneytops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.

This rather sketchy introduction became the legend we know today in the 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas”. Written by American writer Clement Clarke Moore, the poem is now better known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Mr. Moore not only described what Santa looks like, he gave names to all the Reindeer:

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.

Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on Dunder and Blixem!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away! dash away! dash away all!

In later years, Dunder and Blixem were renamed Donner and Blitzen in some countries.

Enter Rudolph

Rudolph was introduced in 1939 in a booklet for the Montgomery Ward department stores. It was written by Robert L. May.

Rudolph’s story was made famous in a song written by Johnny Marks. Sung by Gene Autry in 1949, it became a No. 1 hit that year.

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
They day if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows…

Why do some people say there are Twelve Reindeer?

Some people say there are actually 12 Reindeer, but these people simply misheard the lyrics of Rudolph’s song:
‘All of the other reindeer is NOT ‘Olive the other reindeer’,
‘Then how all the reindeer loved him’ is NOT ‘Howe the reindeer loved him’,
‘As they shouted out’ is NOT ‘Andy shouted out’.

Are the Reindeer male or female?

A viral factoid (circulating since the year 2000) suggests that Santa’s reindeer are all female because male reindeer lose their antlers by December. Reindeer experts say that while most male reindeer do drop their antlers by early December, some younger bulls keep theirs well into spring. Of course, a discussion about the gender of normal reindeer is probably a waste of time. Santa’s reindeer can fly and that suggests they are an entirely different species.

A Bit of Photoshopping

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
– Twas the Night Before Christmas –

I like taking photos of the moon. Sadly, Santa and the Reindeer have never crossed over the moon when I was looking at it. Happily, a bit of ‘photoshopping’ fixed that! I took a photo of the moon on a slightly overcast night, then created a new layer in Photoshop Elements to superimpose Santa and his reindeer – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph.

What would Santa say as he disappeared into the night!? Happy Christmas to All and to All a Good-night!

For the Young and the Young at Heart

If you want to see Santa and his Reindeer in action on Christmas Eve, visit the NORAD Tracks Santa website. The long history of this excellent outreach program is told in the story here: North American Aerospace Defense Command Tracks Santa.

How Truthful are Photos? My Altered Cars

The Age of Information. The internet has given us the keys to an almost limitless resource. Bias is unlimited too, making the search for something resembling the truth almost as difficult as finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Of course, the manipulation of words and photos is not new. History shows that photojournalists have been doctoring images and altering the story for a long time. Altered Images: 150 Years of Posed and Manipulated Documentary Photography  shows “images that broke the basic rules of photojournalism.”

Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine.
– Walter Cronkite –

While it is easy to digitally doctor images, it is hard to do it really well. I found that out when I altered these Car Photos!

I created these ‘Toy Cars’ with the photo editing program GIMP (a program that lets you work with layers.) I started with a Corvette that the The Car Guy owned for a few years.

Basically it involves cutting the photo of the car into five vertical strips that extend from the top to the bottom of the photo, making a layer out of each strip. Then, starting at the front of the car, some of the strips are left full width (the front and back wheel sections), while the rest of them are made narrower (highlight the layer, and drag the arrow from the front to the back or use whatever method your program uses).

I did this several times until I had reduced the front, middle and back strips by about 50%. When the strips are moved into place, the car is shortened into a ‘Toy’ car. If you want to include some landscape on either end of the car, cut those into strips too, but don’t alter them.

This all sounds much easier than it is… it is tricky to get the narrowed strips to match up properly with the unaltered ones. This technique worked very well with the Corvette, since it is such a long car.

I also shortened my PT Cruiser.


PT Cruiser

If you saw either of these photos in an article about, say, customized cars, would you be able to tell they had been digitally altered?

The truth is out there. Anyone know the URL?
– Author Unknown –

Doilies – Would Grandma Approve?

A Collage of Doilies. What would Grandma think if she saw some of her handiwork hanging on the wall!?

red wall, starched

Doilies with the FotoSketcher Emergence filter
Doilies with the FotoSketcher Dots filter
Doilies with the GIMP Stained Glass filter

Do you have any of your Grandma’s  or Grandpa’s treasures displayed in your house?

This week’s Photo Challenge is Collage.

Ghosting Orb – A Rainbow Lens Flare

In this sunrise photo, a small rainbow like orb popped up below and left of the sun. It was caused by lens flare. The light source, the sun, was much brighter than the rest of the scene and this caused reflections inside the camera. This particular lens flare is called a ‘Ghosting Orb’.

Though a rainbow is actually a continuous spectrum of colours, we see seven of them: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. The  mnemonic, Richard Of York Gave Battle In VainROYGBIV – might help some people remember the order of these colours…

At this point, I usually insert a funny quote or pun about a rainbow. There doesn’t seem to be one – and I’ve already forgotten the mnemonic…

The border for this photo was done in GIMP.

To see how other photos from this WordPress Photo Challenge, click this link: Photo Challenge ROYGBIV

Hibiscus Flower – How to Turn a Photo into a Sketch

This is a fairly simple way to turn a photo into a sketch, as long as you know your way around the program that lets you do this kind of stuff with your photos. I use Photoshop Elements or GIMP, but any program that lets you work with layers will do. (The following instructions may not be all that helpful if you don’t already know how to work with layers.)

The photo I’m going to use is a hibiscus flower which is blooming on the most raggedy looking house plant I have ever seen. It spends most of its time growing leaves, which it turns around and kills a few short weeks later. Every day I pick up a hand full of dead leaves off the floor. When the plant looks close to death, I cut it back to almost nothing and pretty soon it starts sending out new shoots again. Then, about the time I think I will dispatch it once and for all, it blooms for a few weeks. (My two eldest children will remember this plant from their University days, over 20 years ago. It was the one they inherited from the previous tenant of the apartment they rented. They were ready to pitch the plant when it became bug infested. I blasted the plant with a bug killer, and cut it back to almost nothing. It survived. The bugs did not. )

Open the photo with Photoshop Elements (or some such program, which may or may not use the same tools I describe below.)

Step 1 – The photo will be called the Background Layer. Duplicate this layer (name it Layer 2) then hide the original Background layer.
Step 2 – You will remove the color from Layer 2. From the Enhance Menu choose Adjust Color, Remove Color.
Step 3 – Duplicate Layer 2 to create Layer 3.
Step 4 – You will invert Layer 3. From the Filter Menu choose Adjustments, Invert.
Step 5 – You will change the Blend Mode of Layer 3. The blend mode option is in the top left of the Layers panel. Change the blend mode from Normal to Color Dodge. Don’t get too excited here if your photo is completely white.
Step 6 – You will apply a filter to Layer 3. From the Filter Menu, choose Other, Minimum. This will open the Minimum filter dialog box. You will change the Radius value at the bottom of the box. Start with 1 pixel, and increase it until you get a sketch that you like. (Watch your photo, not the dialogue box, to see the results.) Then click OK to close the box.
Step 7 – Select Layer 3 in the Layers menu, then right click it and scroll down and choose Merge Visible. Now you have just two layers again.
Step 8 – You will change the Blend Mode of Layer 2 from Normal to Multiply to darken the lines in the sketch. If the sketch gets too dark, you can lower the Opacity Value (which is a slider to the right of the Blend Mode option.)

This is what the hibiscus looked like at this point.

Step 9 – If you want to add some color to the sketch, then duplicate the original background layer. Move this new colored layer to the top of the stack and unhide it if it is hidden.  Change the Blend Mode of this colored layer from Normal to Color and lower the Opacity until you get the color you want.

You could also try other Blend Modes, such as Soft Light or Color burn. (I don’t know if successive blend modes are accumulative or not, so I always cancel (Edit Undo) each action before testing a new one.)

Which one do you like best?

Layered Portrait Within a Portrait

A Portrait within a Portrait. I wish I could claim the idea as my own, but I have seen it done before. I just can’t find a link to show you!

The photos were pretty straight forward to take – bring a tall stool from the kitchen, stack a footstool on top of it, set the wooden clock on top of that and then sit the camera on the very top. (Think Yertle the Turtle, only my motivation was different.) Set the timer, press the button, pick up the picture frame, move into position. Click.

Repeat… many times. The photos weren’t as clear as I would have liked – too much wobble in the tower that held the camera.  A tripod would have worked better, I suppose, but I couldn’t find one.  I called in The Car Guy and got him to take a few of the photos, so I can’t claim that the entire project is a Self Portrait, I’m afraid!

Once the pictures were on my computer, I invoked the great and powerful Photoshop Elements and created five layers, one layer for each of the five photos I chose. I erased the pixels that were inside each of the five picture frames, then shrunk each successive photo to fit each frame.

Do you think you look the same in a photo as you do in your mirror? Could you live without ever looking at yourself? I tried going a whole day without looking in the mirror. Pretty easy, actually, because I don’t wear make-up. It was a bit hard to put in eye-drops, though. The Car Guy said that shaving would be a bit dodgy without a mirror.

You will regret that cell-phone self-portrait in the bathroom mirror one day.
– Unknown Author –

A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the mouth.
– John Singer Sargent –