Lunar Eclipse April 2015 – The Bloodmoon

Hi all! Have you seen enough photos of the Bloodmoon yet? Yes? Well now that you’re here, just admire how similar this one is to all the others you’ve seen. Except that maybe the bright part is near the bottom because this was taken from the southern hemisphere.

Or, no, you haven’t seen enough? Feast your eyes:

Moon a tad before totality during the April 2015 Lunar Eclipse.

Moon a tad before totality during the April 2015 Lunar Eclipse.

With a new(-ish) camera and an eagerness to re-invent the wheel, I just had to try and find the optimal exposure for capturing the eclipse at its finest. Various How-to-Photograph-a-Lunar-Eclipse posts suggested different things so I went on my recent experience with normal night sky photography. Use tripod with longer exposure (1/6 second) but not too long that the moon’s movement causes motion blur, 165mm focal length (because that lens fell to the ground in a tripod mis-hap and doesn’t focus properly near 200mm… you could quite reasonably argue that it doesn’t focus properly at 165, either), widest aperture to gather the most light (f/5.6 – it’s the best I could do with that lens) and ISO 800 to compensate for the other settings.

As totality approached and the bright area never really disappeared, I became suspicious about this eclipse having a total phase at all. Usually a total lunar eclipse has no bright area because it is completely enveloped by the Earth’s shadow, even if it is only for a few minutes.

Anyway, using the newly discovered multiple shooting with timer delay, I managed to take a completely redundant set of 185 near identical photos of that Bloodmoon over the span of 20 minutes. (My last camera died of shutter release mechanism failure. At this rate I may be sending my new camera to a similar early death!)

Anyway, if you missed this one or live away from the Pacific Ocean you can catch the next Bloodmoon on 28 September.

Guest Post: Writing and Self-Publishing a Fiction Novel

Today I am featuring a guest post by Ben Russel. Ben has offered to write an all-important piece for the beginning novelist describing the essentials of writing a novel. Ben is an avid reader and writer. He’s now more into essay writing teaching high school and college students how to write different types of essays. One of his recent articles is on how to write a picture analysis essay. Okay, take it away, Ben.

Prior to beginning the writing of a fiction novel, the writer should first think of what makes a fiction novel successful. The writer should ask oneself what his favorite novel is. Once the writer decides upon his favorite novel, he should ask himself why this is his favorite novel. What about the novel has captured his attention? What techniques did the author use in writing the novel? These ideas should be brainstormed and written on paper for future reference. According to paper writers at, this will assist the writer in ensuring the success of his novel which will be self-published at a later date.

Capture the Senses

When writing a fiction novel, it is essential to capture the senses of your audience. The reader should essentially “feel” the novel as their eyes scroll through the pages. For example, if an author is discussing a man, the author would want to not only discuss that he is 41-years-old but perhaps that he is a handsome and charming 41-year-old man, with silky black hair and the most beautiful ocean blue eyes. The author should keep the readers reaching for more and more of the novel. Any descriptive-type writing captures the attention of the audience and provides the audience with a vivid image while reading.

Strike the Emotions

This leads us to striking emotions of the reader. The author should make them happy, sad, confused and/or joyous. Striking the emotions of the reader leaves an imprint and allows them to further connect with the characters in the novel. Let’s discuss this topic for a moment. Have you ever read Old Yeller? Old Yeller is perhaps one of the most famous novels of all time. Why is this? This is because it strikes the emotions of all people who read it. Old Yeller is extremely descriptive while providing the reader with all types of emotions throughout the story. This is an excellent read for a beginning writer who is interested in further developing their own novel.

Writers Block

Writers block is one problem which the writer may face throughout the duration of the novel-writing process. Writers block is when the writer has no idea what to write about. The writer may sit with the word processor open for hours adding then deleting items. In order to overcome writers block the writer should take a break and/or begin placing themselves in the situation of their character. For example, if the novel is about someone escaping from jail and the writer is writing the chapter of the escape, what would the writer feel in that situation? The writer should brainstorm and write out ideas on a separate piece of paper.


Finally, think of criticisms. If the writer is outside looking in on their work, what would be criticized? Is there anything that is not logical? Is there any part of the novel that does not flow well? If so, these should be addressed. What is the reason the writer is writing the story the way that it is? These are questions which may be asked by readers and/or critics which the writer should be prepared to answer.


Now that we have reviewed several tips on writing the novel, let’s discuss how to self-publish the novel. This sounds like a troublesome feat but it is not very difficult to self-publish. Amazon provides independent publishing which allows the author to publish and sell via the Amazon online store. With Amazon, you are able to publish a book free of charge utilizing online tools they offer to authors.


The author has now written and self-published the novel. Using the tips of writing the fiction novel, the author has written a novel which fully captures the audience. What is next? The author now awaits the first purchase of his book via the Amazon store. The author is now a writer who has their novel available for purchase around the globe.

What to Photograph When There’s Nothing to Photograph

I read an article the other day about what to photograph when you look around and there’s nothing on offer that would please a camera’s sensor. Everything is bland and uninteresting. A bit like my backyard. This article suggested thinking out of the box and making the mundane more interesting just by looking at it at a different angle. On the weekend I did just that.

I stepped into my yard with the camera and here are the results. I composed unusual contents in different ways, creating a slightly abstract image in most cases. I wonder if the average observer would be able to pick what the mundane object actually is. Those unfamiliar with my backyard might have a tougher time recognising them. My son didn’t immediately pick a couple of them!

Here are the photos I added to my Flickr page. Below is the key to what they are. How many would you pick?

#1. Black & Blue. What is the black and what is the blue? Level of difficulty: 9/10

#2. Any ideas? Level of difficulty: 3/10

#3. The bush in the foreground is in focus. What’s red and out of focus? Level of Difficulty: 4/10

#4. The Wedge. Created by distant long grass, closer shorter grass, and what’s that in the foreground? Level of Difficulty: 6/10

#5. What’s that grass growing up against? Level of Difficulty: 7/10.

Ready for the answers?

#1. Net over the tarpaulin on my trailer

#2. Looking straight up through a basketball net.

#3. Roof of my house.

#4. Shed roof.

#5. Compost bin.

So even though these aren’t particular brilliant, it shows how every day objects can be viewed in a unique way to add a little bit of interest that would otherwise be missing.

New Lens, Clean Sensor, Test Photos of the Local Wildlife

Any beginner who has started taking photography a bit more seriously will realise that the lens that came with their camera can be quite limiting. It’s usually an 18 to 55 mm zoom (approximately 1 to 3 times magnification if you think in those terms) and you’ll soon discover that 55mm is not long enough to catch wildlife in the distance, 18mm is not wide enough to take really nice landscapes and night sky shots. And the small maximum aperture is not enough for good shots in dim light or to play with wide ranging depth of field.

The other day I took my camera in to get its filthy sensor cleaned and was checking out some lenses, tossing up between a 55-200mm zoom and a 70-300. I liked the 55 end of the kit zoom I had and wanted to explore beyond. The 300 was tempting but I really didn’t want to miss out on experiencing the gap between 55 and 70. Pft! you might say. It’s only 15 mm and the extra 100mm at the top more than makes up for the 15mm at the lower end. Maybe so, but I will never know if I never try. I was very uncomfortable with that gap so I bought the 55-200.

I picked the camera up during the week and took the new lens for a spin in the vacant scrubland on the hill behind us. Here are some of the better shots. Feel free to criticise. :) All in all, very happy with the lens. Feel free to click to my Flickr page in the menu on the right –>

Yellow Flower

I’m not a botanist so have no idea what this is. In fact it appears on its way to the great flower bed in the sky.

Scotch Thistle with Butterfly

Gotta love the composition on this one. Trying too hard to hide the wilting flower off the left hand side. May as well give up and say there’s a dying purple flower off the left hand side. Love the butterfly though. It was the only one I managed capture before it flew away.

Scotch Thistle

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think this is a scotch thistle… with one decent flower… and three not so decent.

Kangaroo on the ridge

I was walking up the hill concentrating on plants when I looked up and spotted about six roos on the ridge. Panicking about missing a potentially awesome shot, I started snapping away, fumbling with the focus ring, to produce exactly zero shots with good focus. This is the best of those shots, cropped slightly for composition.He was the only one kind enough to hang around and pose for his portrait!

Fox sprung

Similar story as with the Kangaroo. Plant spotting and I heard a commotion behind a patch of blackberries. Fox fight! One of them scampered away, before I caught this one looking straight at me.

Fox on the Run

And finally he takes flight, well, ground.


Again, my botany knowledge is lacking. Can anyone tell me what these are? They are about half an inch long top to bottom. It was late morning and still dripping with dew. Beautiful.


Black ones, this time. Smaller.


Feel free to help me out, here. Thanks!

Days Since Last Snake: 4

Yep. I had to reset the counter the other day. You’ve all heard the stories about Australia being home to seven of the top ten deadliest snakes in the world. Or the top however many of the deadliest creatures. You’ve seen the Croc vs Snake video and the Kangaroos fighting in the street. Wildlife is everywhere. We used to laugh when we hear about Europeans thinking kangaroos are constantly hopping down the street. Not in the city and not during the day, typically. Although it does happen in rural areas around dusk. Foxes are common in the suburbs, scavenging for food. Possums are found in inner city parks and roofs. Rabbits are everywhere. So, I’m a little surprised we’ve gone 20 years in our current place of residence before our first snake encounter.

The snake found behind our laundry door

The snake found behind our laundry door

With the massive expanse of scrubland behind our place, I really thought we’d come across a slithery little serpent in our yard many years ago. Neighbours occasionally report sightings in their wood piles against back fences, under sheds etc. So naturally we thought our time was not far away. We always cut our grass short and keep piles of cut branches, wood and other rubbish to a minimum. That probably helped a lot. But it turned out our first encounter was to be within the sealed walls of our home.

We probably have our dog to thank for discovering the silent sucker. And my daughter for noticing his strange behaviour, and for her calm reaction. Last Thursday was a warmish day. We had the laundry’s external door open and the fly-wire door shut for the breeze. I was helping her with a late essay for school at the dining room table. At one point she decided to get up for a drink of water. From the kitchen she can see through to the laundry where the dog was extremely interested in the bottom of the solid back door wedged open against the wall. Ears were up, nose was sniffing madly. Em approached cautiously and had a peek behind the door.

On her return to the school essay work site, she calmly says to me, “I think there’s a snake in the laundry.” Eyebrows raised, I go to the laundry, get the dog away and peered into the gap between the wall and the open door. The I praised the door wedge jamming it open against the wall, preventing the dog from gaining access to the poisonous fangs on the creature tucked in behind it.

Snake presence confirmed, we then went into automatic snake removal mode. Lesson one: Make sure you have the phone numbers of several local snake catchers. We didn’t and started Googling. Actually this wasn’t so bad because the first website on the list automatically used my phone’s location to direct me straight to a local snake catcher. Problem was the guy was based in Mornington, more than an hour’s drive away. The intent was good but the result was off the mark somewhat.

Anyway, after sending him a pic of the snake he confirmed it was a copperhead. Very common, very poisonous but rarely kills people. And he was at least an hour away. My wife in particular was not prepared to wait that long. Her father is advocate of “If you see a snake, get the shovel”. I’m an advocate of avoiding huge fines by not killing protected animals. Yes, Australia has some of the deadliest snakes, and they are protected. This snake was curled up peacefully behind a door. Moving the door would have risked it slithering out and heading to some other hiding place, either further in the house or outside somewhere. Not knowing where the bastard is was less comforting than watching it lying in its current position.

After the third phone number and about seven attempts to call them all, we had a Steve Irwin-type guy come out to catch it. And catch it he did. Wife won’t go to bed now without a towel wrapped up (ironically snake-like) against the small gap at the bottom of the wire door. Everyone else seems rather unfazed by it all now. It was an excitement we hadn’t seen for years. And the Steve Irwin snake catcher assures it will likely be another 20 years before we see another one nearby. Let’s hope so. Thinking of getting a sign like this:

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Imminent Danger is Officially LIVE!

Richard Leonard:

Michelle Proulx has re-released Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It on Amazon in ebook and print. I’ve already read the first edition and these changes make me want to buy the update! Check it out!

Originally posted on Michelle Proulx -- The Website:

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen — Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It is re-released on Amazon and ready for your reading enjoyment! (Scroll to the end of the post for links.)

The 2nd edition features a variety of exciting updates, including:

  • A brand new cover!
  • Revised interior text! (the story didn’t change or anything, my editor and I just did another run-through to tighten up phrasing, remove some minor logistical errors, punch up the wow! factor, etc.)
  • An affordable print edition! ($12.99 list price on Amazon, compared to the previous $21.99 atrocity that iUniverse created)
  • An affordable ebook edition! (it’s enrolled in KDP, so I’ll probably be doing some free days in the near future)
  • A shout-out to my fellow WordPress bloggers in the Acknowledgments section! (if you’re reading this, you rock, and never forget that)

For anyone just finding this site for the first time, here’s…

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Photography Experiment #2: HDR From One RAW File

Expanding on my last experiment with exposure bracketing whereby a photo is composed of several separate exposures using layer masks in post-processing, I found a good candidate for a similar technique where the different exposures come from the same RAW file.

Taking photos in RAW mode with a DSLR gives greater scope for post processing because you can get up to 2 or 3 or more EV out of a single RAW file.

Yesterday I took the family to Point Nepean at the very tip of the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne. A beautiful spot with lots of Australian defence history. (Those of you who have read the final chapters of my novel-in-progress, Rochelle’s Briefcase, will realise I have an agenda. I’ve never been there before but needed to become familiar with the place!) I took a shot of an interesting cloud over Point Lonsdale but later thought apart from its shape the overall colour was a little bland. Blue ocean and sky, white-ish cloud. I needed to bring out some detail in the cloud.


The two exposures I extracted from the single RAW file of the photo.

Back at home I opened the RAW file in GIMP using the UFRaw plugin and began playing with the exposure. As you can see in the double photo to the left here, the recommended exposure (bottom) contained a nicely blue-tinted ocean but the clouds were too friendly. I found that by lowering the lower exposure (top), the darker, stormy detail of the could was emphasised, but the nearby shore was too brown and dirty.

I opened the normal exposure first and used that as the bottom layer of my image.

I then reopened the same RAW file as a layer which invoked UFRaw, where I reduced the exposure to bring out the cloud’s detail. I used this as the upper layer in my image.

The next step was to apply a layer mask but unlike in the last experiment, I simply used an opaque mask to begin with. I wanted to make the top layer transparent from roughly the horizon down so the bluer ocean in the lower layer would show through. To simply make the sea transparent and the sky opaque would result in a weird transition at the horizon so I needed to make this more gradual.


Final merged version of the photo. Click the pic to see the full resolution photo at Flickr.

Using the gradient tool while editing the layer mask, and drawing with a black background and white ink, I drew a linear gradient from roughly halfway between the rock and the horizon, vertically to a point equidistant above the horizon. Here’s the final product:


London Bridge rock formation at the mercy of approaching storm clouds. Click the pic to see the full resolution photo at Flickr.

Here’ another example where I used the same technique to highlight the nearby London Bridge rock formation in the foreground while bringing out the darkness of the clouds. I think this one still has a problem with the slightly bright band above the horizon.

Again I wonder if this is true HDR. One could argue that it is because I’m taking two different exposures and combining the desired elements of each. regardless, I’m finding that layer masking is a very useful tool during post processing and if it can help improve the end result, then I’m going with it.