The “Blood Moon” is a dull ember only just visible in a hazy sky

My photos of the lunar eclipse did not turn out well when the moon was reaching totality: basically, underexposed because the moon was (nearly) gone! I recall from earlier shots that 1/125 second was about as slow as would work, due to motion blur from atmospheric effects and the moon’s motion. So I left it at 1/125 with maximum aperture (f/5.6), and increased the ISO as the moon disappeared.

However, I integrated 12 exposures taken as a burst, giving essentially 12/125 or about 0.1 second. Even though the exposures were made within the space of 2 seconds, each one showed the image in a different position, which illustrates why a longer exposure is blurry. By chopping it into separate short exposures I was able to manually align the separate images.

Lunar Eclipse “Lantern”

This simply adds the pixel sample values together. Dedicated software, such as used with astronomical instruments, would do better at removing the random noise as part of the process. I did noise reduction on the combined exposure.

Yes, the sky really is purple.  There was a visible haze here, and later clouds were visible over the moon.  I calibrated the white balance on an exposure of the normal full moon taken just after the eclipse ended, setting that to neutral grey.  The same profile was applied here, so the red tone is visible and accurate.

The last bit of direct light was just touching the limb, and that is pure white and overexposed in this image.  By eye, the area between the white tip and the red blush did appear more turquoise (blue/green), but that’s a perceptual illusion due to the fact that it’s simply less red than the neighboring region.  These colors did not show up in the true-color photo.  I suspect that the dark colors next to a full-sunlight bright spot affects the eye differently than the camera sensor.

Also notice how the upper-right blends into the same shade as the surrounding sky.  That’s how dark it appears: only just an ember separating itself from the empty haze.

The picture loses something in the JPEG compression, and the sRGB color space is disappointing after viewing it in Photoshop in the full gamut available to my monitor.  But you get the general idea.

Fixing a Windows 7 Laptop

A friend of the family had a laptop that would crash during the boot process.  It appears that a file loaded and run during booting must be corrupted.

The laptop came with Windows pre-installed.  He did not have a physical disc or a readable recovery disc.  The built-in Repair feature announces without elaboration that it can’t help.

This uses a SSD, which may have been “fixed” simply by scanning it, as bad sectors are mapped out automatically.  My own recovery discs refused to perform the repair.

So, with his permission, I re-install Windows after deleting the entire partition and resetting the partition table.  I have all the files copied off in case there is anything needed.

This ought to be simple, but being Windows, there is a synthetic problem: licensing.

First, I need his “Number”.  It’s not on a sticker on the bottom of the machine.  It’s from Dell, so I don’t know why it wasn’t noted there.  I peruse the old disk data to find the information, and most of what I find on obtaining this obfuscated information is reposted from the same original article that refers to a range of bytes in a registry key, but in my case those bytes are all zeros!

What I finally found that did work is this page.  I suppose the details have changed with SP1, or is different for a volume-installed original like Dell used.  In any case, I got a number that looks like the right kind of thing.

Second, I no longer keep a “Universal” MSDN subscription, and my own Windows is the Ultimate edition.  His was Professional.  All versions are on the DVD, if only you can select it!  Deleting one little text file turns it back into a Universal installer, prompting me which version to install.  But it’s on a DVD, and a boot DVD at that.  (Making a boot flash drive would be the same issue, with additional chance of incompatibility, plus I wanted to give him a copy to keep anyway.)

I found an excellent tutorial on re-burning the Windows install DVD so that it still boots and works correctly.  It used free software for Windows, which was OK.  I did the saving and poking around on the bad disk under Linux in case it was caused by viruses, but I switched to Windows for burning the DVD.  I was able to make a DVD with his personal info on the label, to keep for future use.

Now, the installer did not work!

After copying files and rebooting the first time, it complains that it can’t configure “this hardware”.  I look up the error text in Google and find some documentation about Intel drivers, or newer Advanced Format disks.  It’s addressed in SP1, but this installer is plain. Slipstreaming service packs onto a new install disc is something I have not done in a while…

Following up on some things, I discover the BIOS is set for “RAID mode”.  I was looking for a compatibility mode setting for Advanced Format drives or somesuch, and saw that it was simply set to a useless setting.  The laptop only has one disk, so what’s the purpose of RAID mode, in a pre-built product?  I suppose it may have features beyond the baseline ASPI mode other than doing RAID things?  Anyway, this might explain why the Repair feature would not work either.  It probably is like the (pre-SP1) installer, and doesn’t know about the drive with the controller set in this mode.

Eventually, it installs and proceeds.  However, it doesn’t like the product ID code I gave it.  I’m hoping it’s just not expecting that Dell manufactured version to be installed in the normal way (or not with the regular product disc), but with the number in hand he can “activate” Windows after explaining that he had to replace the hard drive.  If other credentials are needed, I have the old registry hives.  It continued just fine without an ID, and I expect it will work for some period of time like 30 days.

Next, the Dell laptop drivers!  What a pain.  Without even a network driver, I try to get stuff from another computer via their web site.  The first thing I downloaded was a big CAB file that (1) didn’t seem to extract sensibly, having multiple files of the same name and (2) no instructions.  I found the right network card driver as a EXE installer and copied it over on a flash drive.

So the rest should be automatic right?  Wrong.  Windows Update doesn’t know about the Dell drivers.  The Dell site complains that the web browser is both IE and old, and suggests Firefox, Chrome, or a newer version of IE.  Well, I want drivers first, so that’s too bad.  It does have a hardware detect, but the automatic download and install everything is broken.  For something like downloading essential drivers, they ought to have an austere web page that works without the latest browser technology to display pretty pop-up menus or try to sell additional products or entertain you with videos while you are busy being annoyed.

Now another big complaint:  they are pushing an “app” that keeps drivers up to date, but only after downloading and installing do you find out it’s a commercial program that costs money to make work.  To do what Windows Update is supposed to be doing.

The list of possibly useful files on Dell’s page, once given the model number, is awkward and brittle but does allow downloading things one by one.  I got the video driver installed before returning the laptop.

 

Moon Shot, take Ⅱ

The quarter moon offers much more contrast than a full moon, and this time I used a telephoto lens: Canon EF-S 55–250mm f/4–5.6 lens on its longest position.  I used the Canon 70D on a tripod, ISO 100, 1/160 at f/5.6 ×3 exposures.

Quarter Moon

It’s difficult to get focused, and about 1/3 of the bursts were out of focus even though I used the touch screen “Live View” to indicate what to focus on.

The lens has optical stabilization, but I suspect it’s turned off automatically if the steadiness of a tripod is detected, as that is a feature listed on some lenses. Unfortunately faster exposure times were subject to blurring anyway. I didn’t bother to use a remote shutter release, but that might help. I don’t know if this is (usual) vibration of the camera lens, or caused by atmospheric turbulence making the image move around. f/5.6 is the fastest aperture at the 250mm end of the zoom, which is also the size where diffraction starts to be noticeable.

Exposure-wise, 1/40 second still (only barely) has no clipping, so would be the optimum for ETTR to capture the most detail and least noise. 1/125 is the good-looking natural exposure, and at 1/640 it shows visible noise.

I improved the contrast by using the “highlight” slider as well as the overall “exposure” slider in Adobe Camera Raw. The difference between the limb and the terminator was still vastly different lighting, and bringing out better the rays of Kepler would darken the terminator and bring the shadow farther in to make more of a crescent than a quarter. So I used “curves”, leaving the darks alone and changing the contrast of the mid-to-bright.

The color is as-shot, with no white balance adjustment or B&W conversions.  The underexposed pictures came out brown, and the bright ones are very neutral.

I merged three exposures as follows:

  • Cancel all adjustments made in Lightroom while evaluating the exposures.  Noise reduction is turned all the way off, but sharpening is left as proper for the basic “developing”.
  • Transfer the burst to Photoshop as layers
  • Double the resolution
  • Auto-align the layers, specifying “reposition only”.  Leaving it on auto can make PS complain that it can’t find anything.
  • Use the stacking mode Median or Mean, whichever works better.  For longer bursts the Median gets rid of outliers, but for low-noise images Mean is more accurate.
  • Rasterize the stack.

The doubling of the resolution allows for alignment to half a pixel in the original images, and combining exposures this way actually increases resolution as well as removes noise.  With non-noisy images, the increase in clarity is due to the “dithering” of different exposures.

After combining the original exposures, then adjust the exposure, apply noise reduction, and so on.  This is easily done using Adobe Camera Raw as a (smart) filter in Photoshop.

Now sharpening is also done in the Adobe Camera Raw filter, at the same time as the other adjustments.  Because the resolution was doubled and the image is not pixel-sharp to begin with, a large radius value is warranted.  I set it to 3, which allows more aggressive processing without introducing fake detail from noise.

Shoot the Moon

A few days ago was the extra full moon in a calendar month.  This is sometimes called a blue moon, as a weaker form of the traditional term. July 2 and July 31 2015 were both full moons. Two full moons in the same calendar month occurred twice in 2012 and will occur twice again in 2018.

I took some pictures using my somewhat-new Sony α-6000 with the Sony 55–210 f/4.5–6.3 zoom lens.  This features image stabilization, and I hoped the auto-focus could lock on it.  I avoided the most extreme aperture setting so set f/5.0 and 1/250 second at the native (best quality) ISO 100.  The shots were hand-held.  Unfortunately,  I seem to have left the lens set to the short end of the range, not the long end, so this was essentially taken with a “normal” (not “telephoto”) focal length.

I also grabbed my Canon 70D, which was mounted on a tripod.  I attached the EF-S 55–250mm f/4–5.6 lens and tried that too.  Again, I backed off from the most extreme aperture setting and used f/4.5, which is brighter than the Sony.  Also again, I used the shortest (not the longest) focal length, so I would have been better off using a high-quality “normal” prime lens.

In both cases, in full manual mode, I set a variety of shutter speeds and shot bursts with each.  The in-camera metering and histogram is not useful because the black background overwhelms the data and the moon is actually very small in the frame.

Blue Moon #1

Blue Moon #2

I did notice that the underexposure warning overlay was standing off from the disk of the moon, and in Lightroom it was even clearer. The sky around the moon was not black but hazy. Presumably the atmosphere scatters light, enough to show in the exposure, even if it appears very clear by eye.

The histogram showed two distinct distributions, with the haze a few stops below the bright portion. I wondered if the dark shades of the haze were only in the dark sky, or if the dark areas on the moon also included these values. That would determine whether I truncated these darks and to to what extent. So I used a gradient map filter in Photoshop, setting different colors for the darkest darks, the next darks, and others. By moving the slider of the gradient editing tool I could set the split so that the background was “darkest” but any more would start showing the other color; then see if the dark shades on the moon were tagged as “darkest” or the other key color.

000453I found that a tiny amount in the Sea of Crises was in the same range as the background.  The Levels tool controls in the screenshot inset shows what I decided on. The “haze” is the lobe to the left, and it’s significantly below the main subject’s detail.  Only shadow areas that essentially go to black — don’t show any detail anyway — extend farther left than where the right lobe rises visibly from the zero value.

Even with the contrast and exposure levels set nicely, it’s hard to make out detail in the colorless image.  The earlier use of gradient mapping to find details inspired me to use the same tool again, for artistic purposes.  I used midnight blue for the darks and a warm-light color for the lights, but set yellow for the brightest values and adjusted the slider so the split between them was showing color contrast on the rays coming from Tycho Crater.

 Exposures

In both photos presented above, I stacked a burst of 3 shots and took the median of each pixel, to reduce noise.  Since this was ISO 100 with brightness in normal midtone range, I don’t think it did anything useful for the main subject, though it did improve the pixelization of the “haze” background (which is truncated from the final image anyway).  Before aligning the exposures I doubled the image size, as this will help with sub-pixel alignment differences.  The disk of the moon is only 250 to 275 pixels even after doubling: as I said, very small in the frame or about 3% of the height of the exposure.

Since the range of values (see histogram inset above) is a small portion of the exposure’s latitude, there is a large latitude in useful exposures possible.  I chose 1/250 f/5 for the Sony and 1/400 f/4.5 for the Canon, and applied the identical adjustments to each, so you can see they are the same EV.  A brighter exposure on the Canon, which is not overflowing the high end of the available capture range, was not nearly as good even though you would expect it to be less noisy and more nuanced.  Oddly, the size of the moon is different from exposure to exposure, so the zoom lens was not held fixed but moved.  Markedly more chromatic aberration and lower contrast (even after adjusting for the difference in exposure) could be due to the performance of the lens at different zoom settings?

Of the shots I took, the Canon (second picture above) is the clearest and sharpest.  If the lenses are equally good, the lower resolution and longer focal length of the Canon would be better, even though the two cancel out to give the same number of pixels.   A larger pixel pitch and larger projected image to match, covering the same number of pixels, should give better quality.  However I think any differences are dominated by lens performance.  It’s hard to tell exactly if it’s really “better” though because the best exposure in the Canon was actually a little smaller than the Sony, so it would look sharper due to that.

Conclusions

  1. shoot lots of exposures, even more than you would think you need.
  2. vary the settings, even beyond what you think is the right range and also change things you don’t think would matter.
  3. know your lenses.  Not only how the sharpness varies with f-stop, but are there any sweet spots or sour spots in the zoom?
  4. know how to operate everything by feel in the dark.  That includes reviewing images and zooming to inspect what you just shot with the camera’s screen.

This is also a striking example of how a good camera trounces what a cellphone can do.  People might be used to “selfies” and social media shots that are of very poor technical quality, and not really notice when a picture is better in that respect.  But when it comes to pictures that could not be taken at all with a smartphone camera, it’s a difference between getting the shot and having nothing useful at all.

It’s amazing that a small fist-sized compact camera can get hand-held pictures with the kind of close-up you have using binoculars.

 

Are different brands of camera flashes different?

On the Photography StackExchange site, I came across an interesting question: “Factoring out all features and just considering the Quality of the light, What is the difference between a very expensive flash and a average priced flash?

I was aware that people had posted opinions on general quality of manufacturing and durability in a professional-use situation and product lifetime, and I had decided to get one of each (one expensive, one cheap).  The only feature difference that I use is the secondary lamp on the high-end brand.  Since I have them, I thought I could easily compare the results.

The Test Shots

I shot the same picture using a Yongnuo YN568EXII (currently sold for $105) and a Metz 58AF2 ($400 for those versions still for sale).  I used a tripod with the flash mounted on-camera, and fully specified the exposure as ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/22. The flashes were set to use ETTL to determine the light output automatically, with the zoom head set to 70mm, and the secondary lamp on the Metz disabled.

The raw files can be downloaded via Dropbox.  IMG_4236 was taken using the Yongnuo, and IMG_4237 with the Metz.

RAW Data Analysis

chart-measurements

The green rectangles indicate some of the regions where measurements were taken: whole-chart, lightest, darkest, and grey-background.

To my surprise, the immediate appearance of the histogram on the camera showed striking differences!  The Metz showed a substantially broader range of tonal values, while the Yongnuo showed a narrow spike dominating the display.

To get a closer look, I used RawDigger, which will give information about the real recorded values in the RAW file without any kind of interpretation going on.

IMG_4236-Sel-1813-1257-1605x1135.x

Yongnuo whole chart measurement

IMG_4237-Sel-1813-1257-1605x1135.x

Metz whole-chart measurement

Where are these differences coming from?  I’ll report only the green values because the shapes of the histogram are the same in all channels.

For middle grey, the background border areas of the card, Yongnuo (Y) shows an average value of about 702 and σ (standard deviation) is 32.  For Metz (M), the average is 852 with σ 25.  The darkest and lightest (un-numbered) patches are 68–3013, while for M they range from 55½–2417, with similar variances on each brand.

For M, the brightest un-colored base paper is not the brightest value recorded! Patches 13-A through 19-B, (C,D)-13 (cyans), and (C,D)-15 (yellows) are all brighter in the green channel.  The brightest patches on M measure as 3142, where there is a visible spike at the right edge of the histogram.  In Y, those patches are 2895, a little less than full bright, as expected.

This might be due to uneven flash coverage: I found the wall around the chart was also brighter towards the upper-right on the M, so the base-paper patch happens to lie in the corner that received the least light.  On the other hand, the wall was more slightly brighter towards the top in the Y exposure.  Since the camera was in the same position and the flash height is only about 1cm different, any effects due to angle should be the same on both.

Looking at the R,G,B values of patch L8, it is clear that the color balance is different: the Y has more blue than the M.  In the histograms for the overall chart, the M shows double peaks in all three channels where the Y only has one.  In the red channel, one peak between EV −2 and −3 (about sample value 350) while in M there is a double peak around this value; for green the situation is similar between EV −1 and −2; and for blue the peak just right of EV −2 in the Y corresponds to just the (smaller) right part of the double-peak on either side of EV −2, in the M.  The blue channel also has another strong peak at EV −1 in the M that’s not present at all on Y.  Clearly the colors are responding differently.

The overall exposure seems darker in the M photo just looking at what comes up in RawDigger, though range of values (as seen on the histograms) is the same on each, and the specific value recorded for middle gray is the other way around.  For the wall to the right of the chart, the M is also a tiny amount brighter.  But for the lower-left of the exposure, the wall is significantly darker in the M if you just look at the average.

flash-chart-wall-R

flash-chart-wall-LL

The M exposure shows a lower average and a much lower σ, but the histogram pictures show fatter distributions on the M, and double peaks.  This is confusing and not immediately obvious why, but RawDigger changes horizontal scales when moving between exposures, and the choice of scale is not intuitive.  It appears that the exposure is about half a stop lower in this region for the M.

Without using careful measurements of the image pixel data, a side-by-side viewing appears to have a slight difference in exposure, but upon closer inspection only some things are exposed differently and the color balance is different.  This definitely counts as a difference.

Developed Data Analysis

Loading the files into Lightroom, I synchronized changes to the two exposures. I cropped the chart so the histogram is dominated by neutrals and shows a clear peak that should be lined up in all channels. I also corrected the perspective so it’s roughly rectangular, which will simplify the later overlay comparison. Sharpening and Noise Reduction were both turned off.

The process used is 2012 Adobe Standard, and no adjustments where made to exposure.

The White Balance was set using the eyedrop tool over a section of grey background. The image is rather noisy with the color varying from pixel to pixel, visible in the loupe-zoom of the tool. So I tried a few spots to make sure it was representative, and verified that the RGB values of the neutral patches were showing the same in each channel.

The same WB was applied to both exposures, and the other exposure was visibly different, showing a color cast.  Below are screen shots put together in a collage.  You can see the histogram in LightRoom indicates that the neutral peaks don’t line up.

wb-comparison

The Color Temperature of the two flashes are different, and neither matches the Flash preset color balance.  The setting above, taken for the Yongnuo, is a temperature of 6650 with tint +10.  The Metz is about 6072 with tint +14.

Next, I compare all the colored patches by cutting strips half as tall as the patches and alternating them from different exposures.  Below, each patch, e.g. the yellow in L15, has the bottom of the box shown from the Yongnuo exposure, and the top of the box from the Metz.  In addition, the left and right edges are painted in Photoshop as pure uniform grey.

stacked-charts

After adjusting the WB individually for each exposure as explained above, it was clear from this rendering that the brightness varied across the chart, in different ways for each exposure!  I used a (different) gradient exposure adjustment on each to approximate the uniform brightness of the grey background.

Ignoring the brightness completely by setting all the “B” values to 50% and leaving the “H” and “S” unchanged, we can better see the color differences without being overwhelmed by the illumination changes.

stacked-charts-hue

Colors with especially low saturation are lost, but this shows that the only color shift is subtle: Pure blue shifts in saturation, green shifts a little in hue value, and cyan does both.  This is not something that will be noticed, so in terms of color quality of the flash I would say there is no real difference.

Note that this uses the correct white balance adjustment for each flash, individually.  What about using both at the same time, so the light sources are mixed?

stacked-charts-WB-hues
This adds a yellowing of the mid to dark neutrals, and a hue shift in the magentas.   The lightest neutrals don’t have a visible difference, and I think that would be where it would be more bothersome.  I expect the overall effect is lost in the normal color casts you pick up from other objects in the room and whatever you are bouncing off or diffusing through.

Conclusions

Both flashes have non-uniform light beams that I believe are the dominant source of differences.  In particular, the apparent difference in exposure and the visibly different texturing of the wall is due, I conjecture, to the differences in illumination angles.  A difference in diffusion, or apparent size of the light source, can affect the modeling of textures especially when the flash is near the lens.  This deserves further research.

Although I saw the in-camera histogram was quite different with one seemingly offering more dynamic range in the exposure, and the reflected light curves are also rather different in some interesting ways, they both work to reproduce colors well.  (Assuming a silver-halide technology ANSI standard IT8 calibrating target contains pigments that respond to different spectra of light in a similar manner to real-world scenes, though it was produced with the intention of mimicking the response of various prints and films. But pigments and dies used for making prints are themselves expected to look right under different lighting conditions.)

 

Hunsacker in “in Glorious RadioVozion™”

On May 16th, 2015 Tao and I attended a play at the Bathhouse Cultural Center.

HQ-DSC00142 two of us

This is on the shore of White Rock Lake, and we arrived just as the sun was setting.

HQ-DSC00129 Tao at Bath Center

I had a few minutes to use the camera.  I got the α6000 specifically to use as a “social camera” to use at such events, as mused in another post.  I was afraid the fill flash would be unusable, but it works OK for a subject distance as would be typical for such use, thanks to digital processing.  The in-camera JPEG would probably do such wizardry automatically, but I don’t use that.  Taking a full-depth 14-bit raw image file, the somewhat brightened subject could be brought up another stop.  It looks like the camera nearly overexposed the brights (the bland sky) and put out as much flash as it could manage.

I used three different adjustments: the foreground subject, color-correction of the landscape, and bring out some visible color in the sky.  The problem with fill-flash, even if it could get the exposure to match with a full-sized external dSLR flash, is that the light doesn’t match; in this case, about 500K too blue.  The camera’s built-in processing might be confused that the sunset was giving pink highlights to the lake!

The theater only has 116 seats, non-reserved, so we hurried in.

HQ-DSC00182 Curtain Call

Here is a photo of the curtain-call (when I was allowed to take photos).  You can see that the set was for an entirely different play, and the microphones are dressed to look in-period, and (if you are familiar with the series) that the people are not in black&white makeup.

This was not just a reading, either.  Deadline! was presented in the manner of an in-period radio show, with an announcer and “sound artist”.  The players dressed in-period, except for their socks I was to learn.

HQ-DSC00171 sound artist

Here is a picture from the side, to show the sound effects and radio announcer performance area, which is blocked in the previous picture as it’s in the back of the stage.

The pipe is a period prop; the Apple laptop is an anachronism, but served great for a neutral color reference in the photo.  They used all live effects except for the music, I’m told.

After the play, they had a Q&A with the audience.  Here is Kurt explaining something in depth.

HQ-DSC00208 cast discussion

I tried to find a shot where Barbra is smiling, but her expression of perplexity only deepened and became more pronounced the longer Kurt continued talking.  It appears the sound artist is taking an interest.

The “live radio” format as a presentation in itself is something I’ve seen before, in Alien Voices.  I saw them (on TV) do War of the Worlds, and it featured live “practical” sound effects as an integral part of the live show.  I suppose that’s different from their normal audio books, which are sound only.

 

 

Diamond’s “Found” Photos

See the previous post for the story.

Diamond positioned himself at the main entryway of this office building, watching people go in and out and getting spotted himself. Someone took this and, after looking for lost pets online, forwarded it to us via MMS message to the phone number on the flier.

Diamond_Found_IMG_0258

A perfect travel postcard

Someone else posted on a regional lost pets group of Facebook and also forwarded us a copy, as seen in the last entry. Here is the full photo, and you can see Brendan and his family’s car reflected in the window!

Diamond-Found_IMG_0260

A busy receiving line! Diamond is about to meet Brendan.

Brendan-edit-2

Sure, you can take a picture with me!

And here is Brendan meeting Diamond. He offered Diamond a cracker, which is a good way to make friends with a hungry bird.

Brendan-edit-1

Diamond’s “Roughing It” Vacation

Diamond

Friday

On Friday, April 10 2015, everything seemed normal.  Tao was out grocery shopping and I gave Diamond his dinner.  He acted normal and content, sitting on his deck (pictured above).  I expected Tao to be home soon so I stayed downstairs, putting away dishes and other small chores.

When I heard her coming, I watched by the door and when she got right onto the porch I opened the front door.  Diamond took off, and bolted out the door.  He was not trying to reach Tao, but flew over her head and to one side, full speed ahead.  I was in shock, not believing what I just saw so quickly.

That is simply not like him.  He doesn’t boldly explore new places, even within the house.  He sticks to a few favored places and is shy about being somewhere else with me, and never on his own initiative.

I expected he must be very close to the front of the house, as when he’s scared he will just grab on, hold still, and stay quiet.  The loud lawn machines across the street would scare him, and I expected to find him in the trees or landscaping directly in our front yard.  Shock turned to worry when a broader search did not find him.

After dark, I knew Diamond would not be active at all but needs to roost.  Parrots don’t have good night vision and can’t get around in the dark.  We decided to make some fliers, so I quickly put something together in Photoshop and took it to a nearby FedEx Office store for printing in bulk, before the closed at 9PM.

We left a few fliers at houses immediately surrounding ours, and I went a few blocks perpendicular to our street as well.  It was at this time that I met some neighbors:  one person a few doors down the block, and a family hanging out on the driveway behind the alley, and a man next door to that.  The whole time up to that point, nobody was visible on the street except for lawn-care professions (who would not stop using the scary leaf blower, BTW), and even knocking on doors I found nobody home to answer.

Tao posted on Craig’s List, which turned out to be useful (I think).

Saturday

Early in the morning, as birds were just getting up and becoming active, I went out to distribute fliers.  Since the binoculars were broken, I took a telephoto lens on my camera, which I thought a good idea anyway since I might examine a photo more carefully when I could not make out details though a shaky live view.

I also set out a portable speaker in the back yard, playing Tao’s voice in a loop.  If he can’t tell which house is his because he doesn’t know it from the outside, he might hear a familiar and distinctive sound and come that way.

Tao also distributed fliers, in a different direction.  I printed out a map to mark our routes and keep track of what’s been covered.

Sunday

I set out a plastic milk crate that he finds irresistible and just has to perch on and investigate.  I put it on the grill counter, near the back door, which is too close for wild birds but is an area he watches with great interest from his window.  I added to that a small stainless-steel bowl of nuts.  Again, shiny metal is something wild birds would be fearful of, but to Diamond that’s where food is found.  (It had not been taken by wild birds, so I suppose that’s right).

Monday

Tao passed out more fliers in the early morning before going in to work.  She has different hours on different days and Monday is a “later” morning.

I got a call from someone who found a flier that day reporting that he heard a parrot the previous afternoon.

That gave me renewed hope.  I used the last of the fliers in that area, at the same time of day.  It is common for him to call for a while in the late afternoon before evening, as do some wild birds.  So I tried to find his voice when that afternoon’s Social Chorus started.

I saved 3 fliers in reserve.

Tuesday

At last!  I got several calls in the early evening saying that Diamond has been spotted at an office building across town, 2 miles away!IMG_2458

When I got photos, it was unmistakable that Diamond was alive and doing OK, just a couple hours ago.  I heard that he was seen at this building from about 5:00PM, and that he had approached a woman in brown scrubs who met a kid.  Now it’s both exciting and frustrating, as the family who witnessed that interaction thought to look for Lost Pets online while waiting for the dentist, and did find my flier.  The people who saw Diamond and also found me did not know the people Diamond approached did not find me.

I went to the building and looked around, and left the last of the fliers where hopefully it make a connection the following day.  Most of the offices were already closed.

Wednesday

Early in the morning, we went out to that building again.  Looking around, I saw that there were numerous trees on the property, an open underground parking area, and the lot was adjacent to parkland featuring a creek.  The Google satellite view like I saw on my phone is shown below, with the red dot marked where the photo above was taken.

Office-Building

So, it’s a nice place for birds, as far as suburbs in this climate go.  I looked around, hoping I would find him still in the area, but also hoping I wouldn’t because he went home with someone.  I hoped this was it, because we were expecting severe weather starting in the afternoon.

When people started arriving, Tao asked them if they knew anything.  At last, we found someone who identified the woman in the brown scrubs, and had seen Diamond still riding her shoulder as she came back into the building.  She called her, and related that Diamond was not with her after all, but a different family was going to try to take him in.  She didn’t know who that was, but knew which office they were at.

The office in question opened at 9:00AM, so we waited until the proprietor came in.  He called the people who we knew intended to take in Diamond, and it went straight to voice mail.

Finally we heard back, and learned that Diamond went home with them and spent the night safe.  The only thing remaining was to go there and pick him up.

Tao and I had driven separately so she could go directly to work later.  Just to make things more exciting, my phone navigation was not working well:  it kept losing the GPS signal and the program would lock up for several seconds at a time.  It would show me behind the actual position and possibly in the wrong orientation, so I kept missing turns.

Tao had arrived ahead of me, and when I got there Diamond was sitting quietly on her shoulder.

Home at Last

So, Diamond spent 4 days and 4 nights in the rough, wild suburbs, and one night at a nice Roost and Breakfast.  I suppose people started spotting him and taking photos all of a sudden because that’s when he wanted to be found.  He spent an hour in public watching people enter and leave the building, before approaching someone.  He must have been considering who looked friendly, having to decide before it got late.

He seems find, just tired and hungry.  The slow and careful movements make me sympathize with being sore from overdoing it.  He also looks a bit unkempt, with his feathers seeming a bit frayed at the ends.  Besides fluffing up more for warmth, he didn’t have the time to keep himself groomed in his normal fastidious manner.  In addition to the dirt on his left coverts (slightly visible in this web-quality photo),  the ends of his primaries and rectricies (tail) appear a little frayed.

Diamond-3912

Looking Disheveled and a Bit Frayed

On the earlier photo at the top of this page, you can see that when his wings are folded, the tips of his primary flight features tough the tip of his tail features. Both are iridescent indigo in the light from the photo flash.

Diamond-3912-head

Bad Hair Crown-feather Day

The chatter in the local lost pets Facebook group is that Brandon (the kid who befriended him) should get the reward.  I still need to talk to everyone involved and flesh out the details, but look for a subsequent blog post in the pets category for more.

Next in topic: Diamond’s “Found” Photos

Most Boring Product Photos

Not to long ago I was photographing some product shots for family, to put on Amazon, so I had to shoot a nice shiny object with a pure white background.  Good product shots are not always easy, and some attention to detail is nice.

As it happens, the other day I came across the most boring product shots imaginable.  Ironically, both had to do with photography.  The first was linked from this post on using colored gels on the flash to match the existing lighting. This 20×24″ sheet of Full CTO can be cut up into pieces to fit over the flash head.  Click to open expanded view just struck me as funny.  Compare with this store, which uses the technical data sheet as a product image as well.

Then I came across this one, following link from the BFT by the same poster.  Now that’s hard to beat on pure useless minimalism while still being perfectly correct.  But let me know in the comments if you know otherwise.