Lens Artists Challenge #156: Black and White

This week’s challenge is quite a challenge for me: I have never shot in black and white! Aaaaand I still haven’t. I don’t have time to try to figure out my phone’s settings, though I would like to sometime.

Instead, I used Google Photos editing to convert some of my previous photos into black and white by setting saturation to zero (and also playing with the contrast). This is also something I have never really done, and I was quite pleased with the results.

I took this photo recently at my mom’s house and thought the lighting and shadows really made it suited to black and white. I liked the sunny yellow of the flowers but this is also a cool way to see it.

Juhani

I also thought my cat Juhani would be well suited for B&W. She is in fact mostly white, so I think this medium helps capture her various contours better.

You can find more black and white at the original Lens-Artist challenge, guest hosted this week by Anne at Slow Shutter Speed.

Feeding Reading 2021

It’s once again summer and that means free books from Kellogg’s Feeding Reading program. Buy any of the participating Kelloggs products and submit a photo of your entire receipt, and you will receive a credit for a book from their selection, which this year includes some classics and some recent releases.

Some of this year’s free books

You can get up to six free books either to ship to your house or donate to a library of your choice. In our house we live on Pop-Tarts and Eggo waffles, so I have already gotten all six of our books, some for my kids, some for my nieces…and one for me.

The program goes until the end of September, but make sure you submit your receipts within two weeks of purchase to get your credits. Happy reading!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #155 – On the Water

Dingle Harbor

For this week’s challenge, I first thought of boats. Picturesque boats, like the one on the harbor (or is that harbour?) in Dingle, Ireland.

One of the best times I’ve had on a boat was our tour of the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. We spent about a week on the ship, traveling from island to island, even crossing the Equator. There were about a dozen of us university students, plus our professors, sharing a charming little yacht called the Coral I.

Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island. I think our ship is the one on the right.

As zoology students, we were of course interested in sighting animals on the water. We saw sea birds, turtles, penguins, sea lions…and lizards. Yes, that’s right, the Galapagos have a swimming lizard, called the marine iguana.

Marine iguanas mostly spend their days sunning on the shore, but to feed they dive down and use their blunt teeth to scrape algae off rocks. They have some really cool adaptations for this lifestyle, including bradycardia or slowing of heart rate while under water, and “sneezing” out excess salt when back on land.

You can find more water at the original Lens-Artist challenge, guest hosted this week by Johnbo.

Lens-Artists Challenge #154 – One Photo Two Ways

This week’s photos are brought to you courtesy of the Google Photos editor. Being a scrapbooker as well as someone who uses my phone as my camera, I am big on photo editing and it is amazing to me how easy it is nowadays. I did all these edits on my phone with one hand while feeding my 9-mo-old at 3:30am. (Hey, I’ve got to stay awake somehow.)

I was skimming through photos of flowers from my yard and decided to do some editing to make some look extra special. First we have this shot of a quince bush which had nice color but was quite backlit. I cropped it, then used the Bazaar filter to make it pop more.

Next we have my weeping cherry tree, which I cropped, then Enhanced, and then added some vignette effect around the edges to give it even more focus.

Do you think the edits were an improvement? I’m happy with how they turned out. Do you guys normally edit all your photos, at least a little, like I do? Or are you more of a purist?

You can find more photos two ways at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

A Squirrel Obstacle Course 2.0: now with socialization!

Last year I wrote about Mark Rober’s pandemic-inspired foray into backyard squirrel watching as seen in his YouTube video on creating a squirrel obstacle course. He’s now revisited this topic a year later to improve on the course, creating a 9-part challenge for the squirrels in his Walnut Heist video.

As I explained in my post, the original video explored squirrel behavior using two perspectives: ethology, the study of animals’ behavior under natural conditions, and behaviorism, measuring behavioral responses to stimuli. In his new video, he also explores a third dimension, studying interactions between the squirrels as they navigate the course.

Returning are our four experimental subjects, this time cast in heist movie-style roles based on how they approach the course: Rick (the acrobat), Marty (the hacker), Frank (logistics), and Phat Gus (the mastermind).

Phat Gus, who last time turned out to be a pregnant female, is still my spirit animal.

So the obstacle course is even more elaborate this time and even incorporates the heist theme with some Mission Impossible stations. It is of course fun to see how the squirrels tackle and eventually overcome all of the challenges, but I especially enjoyed seeing how the squirrels interacted when more than one of them was on the course at the same time. They exhibited plenty of social behaviors, such as:

  • Stealing bedding from each other’s nesting boxes
  • Copying a jump/strategy that they watched another squirrel attempt first
  • Shadowing another squirrel in the air duct maze from the outside
  • Getting in a small spat when two squirrels were in a small enclosed space together
  • Mating behavior (we’ll keep it G rated here)
  • Social grooming (one squirrel grooming another)

This made me realize that despite seeing squirrels nearly every day of my life, I didn’t know all that much about squirrel social behavior. So it was fun to learn more about that while enjoying such an entertaining video. But I definitely wasn’t surprised this time at how quickly the squirrels completed their mission, making this obstacle course look easy!

Good job, Phat Gus!