Test of Graphics File Formats

I’ve decided to test various file formats for graphics to see how they upload to my site. This will help my students create their own sites and populate them with content.

We know the JPEG file format works great–here’s an example, taken in Martinsburg, VA:

martinsburg01

How about other formats? Here’s an example of a resume for Sherlock Holmes, created in Adobe InDesign and saved as a PNG.

In the PNG dialog box, make sure Quality is set to “Maximum” and Resolution is set to “300 ppi.” Also make sure the “Anti-alias” box is checked:

sherlock-holmes-resume

Here’s a simple monogram logo I made in Adobe Illustrator and exported as a PNG (File > Export > Export As). Make sure the “Use Artboards” box is checked in the Export dialog window, otherwise you may get extra white space. Use High (300ppi) Resolution in the PNG Options dialog window:

dw-logo3-01

Do PDF’s work? You can upload a PDF file, but WordPress simply creates a link to the file for users to download, so the file contents do not display on your page:

sherlock-holmes-resume

What about video? To upload a video file, you need a premium version of WordPress. But you can embed a URL from Vimeo or YouTube and your video will show up on your WordPress page. Here’s a link to a video I made that’s on Vimeo:

And here’s a link to a video I made that’s on YouTube:

Of Whales and Birds

Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, is a mecca for anyone interested in whale watching. The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is about an hour north by boat, and this is where large numbers of humpback, fin, and minke whales routinely congregate for the summer.

humpback whale

Humpback whale near Provincetown, Mass.

 

 

whale02A whale-watching trip is also a great opportunity for birders seeking pelagic species—sea birds not commonly seen from shore. Large numbers of these birds will often congregate with feeding whales, hoping to snare small fish and squid churned up in the roiling water.

humpback whale and birds feeding

Herring gull and great shearwaters feeding with humpback whale

Shearwaters are the species most commonly seen from the boats, but storm petrels, jaegers, kittiwakes, and Northern fulmars have been spotted too.

In August 2006, I had the good fortune to be on a whale watch that also produced large numbers of shearwaters—mostly great shearwaters with the occasional sooty shearwater. Great shearwaters breed in the southern Atlantic and migrate north for the summer.

humpback whale feeding

Humpback whale feeding

This summer (2014) the waters around Cape Cod have been teeming with Cory’s shearwater, a summer visitor from island nesting grounds in the eastern Atlantic (and perhaps the Mediterranean as well).

On a whale watch in July, we had good numbers of Cory’s, great, and sooty shearwaters, so I learned how to identify each species. We may also have had several Manx shearwaters, the final member of the quartet of possible species, but I’m not sure I saw them.

great shearwater

Great shearwater, Puffinus gravis. Note the dark cap and black bill.

Cory's shearwater

Cory’s shearwater, Calonectris diomedea. Note the heavy yellow bill.

All in all, it was a wonderful day on the water, and I highly recommend the trip to anyone interested in whales, birds, or both!

whale watching near Provincetown, Mass.

There go flukes!

The Gardens of Provincetown

Walking through Provincetown is one of my favorite things to do in late spring and early sumnmer. At the tip of Cape Cod’s “bared and bended arm” (Thoreau), this historic fishing village and art community is home to some of New England’s loveliest homes and gardens.Provincetown garden

Commerical Street runs the length of the village, and fronting this narrow thoroughfare in the residential East End is where you find many of the most picturesque scenes.Provincetown garden

Combined with peek-a-boo views of Provincetown Harbor, this walk gives you a chance to peer into people’s front yards, which at this time of year are often ablaze with color.Provincetown garden

Some of the homes are elaborate, with manicured lawns, whereas others are emblematic of the term “beach shack” in its finest sense.Provincetown garden

As you near town center, the private homes morph into shops, restaurants, and art galleries—giving you other reasons to explore this ever-changing part of Cape Cod.Provincetown garden

Local Nesters

At our summer home on Cape Cod, we’re lucky to have a wonderful variety of songbirds. Some of these take advantage of the bird boxes scattered about the property. In recent years, we’ve had chickadees, tufted titmice, and great crested flycatchers use the boxes. This year, the flycatchers are back to set up their nest, and white-breasted nuthatches are already feeding their hatchlings.

Welcome Home!

Great crested flycatcher

Great crested flycatcher, Myiarchus crinitus

When I arrived on the afternoon of May 27, about 10 days later than usual, a great crested flycatcher was atop the box, waiting to greet me. These birds, about an inch or so shorter than a robin, are common in summer east of the Rockies. They favor deciduous woodlands, so the Outer Cape’s transition from almost pure pitch pines to mixed forest perhaps accounts for the increasing presence of this species, once considered rare in migration and sparse as a local nester.

These flycatchers are easy to identify, both by their lovely brown-and-yellow color and also by their raucous “whee-eep!” cries and noisy chattering. After an extended period of nest building, accompanied by constant vocalizations, the birds go mostly silent until the young are ready to leave the nest. Two years ago, the entire process took five weeks, from the start of nest building on June 9 until the young fledged on July 16. This year nest building began at the end of May.

flycatcher02flycatcher03flycatcher04flycatcher05New Nesters

Our other local nesters so far this spring are a pair of white-breasted nuthatches. This is the first time they have used one of our nest boxes, and fortunately they picked the one easily visible from our screened porch. This species is common year-round throughout most of the U.S., and also ranges to Mexico and southern Canada. We call them the “ank-ank” bird, because of their frequently repeated nasal calls.

When feeding their young, the parents take turns flying from the nest box and bringing back insects. From our porch, I can hear the baby birds crying for food and watch the almost certainly exhausted adults providing snacks from sunup till sundown.

White-breasted nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

nuthatch02 nuthatch03

Who’s Out and About?

Visitors to Folly Beach, near Charleston, SC, provide snacks for hungry gulls.

Visitors to Folly Beach, near Charleston, SC, provide snacks for hungry gulls.

On March 10, I visited Folly Beach, near Charleston, SC. I hadn’t been there for many years, and I was hoping to find and photograph a shorebird called Wilson’s plover.

Like its cousins, the piping plover and snowy plover, Wilson’s plover is at home on the open beach, where it forages for crustaceans, worms, and insects. The bird’s relatively stout bill enables it to dine on prey that its smaller cousins generally can’t catch and eat.

Wilson's plover, Charadrius wilsonia, is a coastal species found mostly around the Gulf of Mexico and the Southeastern U.S. (Note the band on the bird's right leg.)

Wilson’s plover, Charadrius wilsonia, is a coastal species found mostly around the Gulf of Mexico and the Southeastern U.S. (Note the flag on the bird’s right leg.)

At the southwestern tip of Folly Beach County Park, I spotted a pair of Wilson’s plovers, at nearly the same place I had seen them years ago. The birds were banded, and I wondered where and when they had been caught.

The South Carolina coast is a great place to study shorebirds, so I sent one of my photographs to Chris Hill, professor of biology at Coastal Carolina University. He passed it along to Chris Snook, who is affiliated with the Cape Romain Bird Observatory.

“This bird was originally banded as an adult on 30th March, 2010 on Kiawah Island and was not resighted until 2013 at Folly Beach County Park,” Snook wrote in an email. “So this makes it the 5th breeding season it has carried the markers.” Now I feel even more connected to these wonderful birds!

Willet and black-bellied plover were the other shorebirds I saw on my brief visit.

Willet, Tringa semipalmata, is a large shorebird common along both U.S. coasts. Western birds breed inland and often find their way to the East Coast; some birders are able to distinguish them from their slightly smaller eastern cousins.

Willet, Tringa semipalmata, is a large shorebird common along both U.S. coasts. Western birds breed inland and often find their way to the East Coast; some birders are able to distinguish them from their slightly smaller Eastern cousins.

Black-bellied plover, Pluvialis squatarola, seems a bit drab in basic plumage, but summer adults are quite striking, with jet-black plumage from throat to legs.

Black-bellied plover, Pluvialis squatarola, seems a bit drab in basic plumage, but summer adults are quite striking, with jet-black plumage from throat to legs.

Folly Beach is also a good place to watch gulls, thanks in part to visitors who feed them. Laughing gulls, named for its raucous cries, were the most plentiful species on the day I was there. Like its western cousin, Franklin’s gull, our birds are easily identified in spring and summer by their solid black hood. During other times of the year, the black fades to an ashy streak on the back of the head.

Laughing gull, Leucophaeus atricilla, sports an all-black head during spring and summer. This mostly coastal species ranges from the Gulf of Mexico to New England.

Laughing gull, Leucophaeus atricilla, sports an all-black head during spring and summer. This mostly coastal species ranges from the Gulf of Mexico to New England.

Enjoyable as a simple walk on the beach can be, I’m always interested to see what birds are out and about, no matter the weather or time of year. That’s one of the many reasons I live at the coast.

The Telephoto Effect, Debunked

Container ship passes under Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Charleston, SC. Nikon D70s, 80–400mm lens set to 400mm (equivalent to 600mm on 35mm film).

What Is Perspective?

Both literally and figuratively, perspective is point of view.

Figuratively, as in “What is your point of view on Russia’s annexation of Crimea?”

Literally, as in “Where did you stand when you took that photograph?”

In a photograph, we interpret perspective by looking at the size relationships between objects.

The principle is simple: distance between camera and object (known as object distance) controls image size. The closer the camera, the bigger the image: image size is directly proportional to object distance.

Let’s say you have two people, Jane and John, standing in front of your camera. Jane is six feet from the camera, and John is 12 feet from the camera. In this photograph, John is going to be half the size of Jane, because he is twice as far from the camera.

Our Brain Has Two Choices

Presented with this two-dimensional image, our brain has two choices. Either John really is half Jane’s size, or John is standing farther from the camera than Jane.

Most of the time, our brain makes the right choice, except when it is fooled by an optical illusion—such as someone appearing to hold the Washington Monument in the palm of their hand.

When we see big Jane and small John, we say the space between foreground and background is expanded, and the photograph has a sense of depth—even though we know a photograph is two dimensional.

For our next photograph, let’s simply move the camera back so it is 60 feet from Jane. We’ll keep the distance between Jane and John the same as it was for the first photograph—six feet.

Move the Camera, Change the Perspective

What will the second photograph look like? We know image size is directly proportional to object distance. Jane is 60 feet from the camera, whereas John is 66 feet from the camera. Therefore, John is going to appear 10 percent smaller than Jane—because he is 10 percent farther from the camera.

How will our brain interpret this slight reduction in size between Jane and John? In this case, we will perceive Jane and John being relatively close together. The space between them will appear to have been compressed in comparison to the first photograph, and the image will appear flattened.

Notice that this compression effect was caused simply by moving the camera—by changing perspective. Nothing else in the scene changed. Notice too that we haven’t even mentioned lens focal length yet.

The So-Called Telephoto Effect

Photographers and photographic books often attribute the expansion or compression effect to lens choice: a wide-angle lens expands space, whereas a telephoto compresses space. In other words, lens focal length affects perspective. This is a fallacy.

As we have just learned, perspective is controlled solely by where you place the camera. So how did this fallacy come to be?

Simply put, when photographers are very close to their subjects, they tend to use a wide-angle lens, to take in a larger field of view. And when they are very far from their subject, they tend to use telephoto lenses, to magnify the image—image size is directly proportional to focal length.

Correlation, Not Causation

This correlation of lens focal length, distance from subject, and expansion or compression of space has led photographers to assume that it is the lens choice that is determining the perspective, when in reality it is camera placement.

You can easily prove this to yourself by making two photographs of the same scene from the same vantage point—the first using a telephoto lens, and the second using a lens with a much shorter focal length.

Crop and enlarge the second photograph so it matches the first, and you’ll see no difference between the two in terms of perspective. The compression of space, i.e., the “telephoto effect,” will be present in both images—even though one was taken with a non-telephoto lens.

Of course, when you enlarge a photograph, you risk losing image quality. So I’m not saying get rid of your telephoto lenses! They are great for getting high-quality images of far away subjects. But they don’t magically compress space—it’s the distance between camera and subjects that does that.

Examples

The photographs below were all taken from the same spot. I used three settings on my zoom lens: 80mm, 230mm, and 400mm. (Because my Nikon D70s has a 1.5x-crop sensor, these focal lengths have a 35mm equivalent of 120mm, 345mm, and 600mm.)

I used the photograph taken at 80mm and cropped it in Photoshop to match as closely as possible the photographs taken at 230mm and 400mm.

As you can see, the “telephoto effect,” or compression of space, is apparent in the cropped photographs, demonstrating that this effect is not caused by lens focal length but by camera position.

Container ship passes under Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Charleston, SC. Nikon D70s, 80–400mm lens set to 80mm (equivalent to 120mm on 35mm film).

Container ship passes under Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Charleston, SC.
Nikon D70s, 80–400mm lens set to 80mm (equivalent to 120mm on 35mm film).

Container ship passes under Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Charleston, SC. Nikon D70s, 80–400mm lens set to 230mm (equivalent to 345mm on 35mm film).

Container ship passes under Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Charleston, SC.
Nikon D70s, 80–400mm lens set to 230mm (equivalent to 345mm on 35mm film).

Container ship passes under Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Charleston, SC. Nikon D70s, 80–400mm lens set to 80mm (equivalent to 120mm on 35mm film). Cropped in Photoshop to match photograph taken with lens set to 230mm (equivalent to 345mm on 35mm film).

Container ship passes under Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Charleston, SC. Nikon D70s, 80–400mm lens set to 400mm (equivalent to 600mm on 35mm film).

Container ship passes under Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Charleston, SC. Nikon D70s, 80–400mm lens set to 80mm (equivalent to 120mm on 35mm film). Cropped in Photoshop to match photograph taken with lens set to 400mm (equivalent to 600mm on 35mm film).