Friday, March 07, 2008

A Golden Orb, Floating With Majesty

Serene Against A Clear Blue Sky

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


There are lucky shots and there are lucky shots. I'll explain what this image is, in just a minute, but in the meantime, can anyone guess what I've photographed here?

Is it the early-morning full moon before dawn? Is it the sun? Is it a UFO? Is it a ball of Edam cheese flying through the air?

As some of you might know, I bought a Sigma 300mm lens last Thursday and man, have I been having some fun with it! The focal length is awesome and I've been using the lens in all sorts of weather conditions. When I bought this Pentax K100D in September 2005, I opted for a multi-purpose 18-125mm Sigma lens which has been absolutely wonderful. But the time has come to have a second lens on hand at all times, to give me more options.

They're both detachable lenses, of course, so I can swap them instantly. This series of shots was taken with the 300mm lens, which gave me the sort of close-up I've always dreamed about.

Okay, so you're wondering what the photograph actually shows, right? It's time to reveal all. Here we go ...


It's one of the tourist balloons that dot the Melbourne sky right through late spring, summer and early autumn. It's the first week of autumn here but the skies are crystal-clear and the weather's been very warm, with temperatures in the high nineties.

As you can see, there is a subtle difference between the first image and the second. In the first, I composed the shot deliberately and focused on the fronds of a palm tree, to use them as a distinctive silhouette. Then, using a simple technique that I call "reverse focus", I simply changed the focus so that the balloon was the main object and the fronds became a secondary point of interest.

I waited a few seconds to see if I could get a clear shot of the design on the side of the balloon and I got lucky as the pilot gave it a brief blast on the burners.


The interesting thing to bear in mind is that this balloon was several hundred feet above me, so it was a good thing I was using a 300mm lens. They would still have been great shots with my 125m lens, but they would not have been so arresting.

And in conclusion, I'd just like to share what my teenage (and irreverent) son told me. I showed him the first photograph and asked him to guess what it was. "Something stupid," he said, without any hesitation.

"Why's that?" I asked.

"Dad," he said, almost reproachfully, "because you took it."

91 comments:

Seamus said...

Nice play on DoF!
I love playing with depth of field and forced perspective! The 300mm lens is one of my favorites and always accompanies me in the camera bag.

Monique said...

I was going to say 'tennis ball' and then you spoiled it by revealing everything.

Jenera said...

I have my standard lens that came with my new camera I got a week ago but I also have a 300mm lens as well that I purchased to use with my other camera when I first got it. Lucky me, I bought another canon so I can use it with the new camera with no problems. But anyway, I love my 300mm lens, it's my favorite!

Hilary said...

Evidently your son thinks that you're full of hot air... ;)

Lovely shots.. I'm envious.. and very entertained.

SandyCarlson said...

Great stuff, David. What a job. Thanks for the lesson. Your son will catch up with you one of these days!

CrazyCath said...

I always wondered how photographers did that (I am a frustrated photographer!) That is great. I thought it was a beach ball.

Your son is like every other son in the world. Cannot recognise talent under his nose! Totally irreverent! He'll learn......

aims said...

OMG! Kids!

quintarantino said...

As for your son, don't worry ... I have that for double at home with two 14 year old twins!

The photos really left me like ... aaahhhh!!
There, dear Sir, I dare to say we have 99,99% talent and 00,01% luck.
And that is the truth!

lime said...

you had me stumped on the first shot. the exchange with your son reminds me of something mark twain said about his father being the biggest idiot on earth when twain was about 15 but in ten years time he couldn't believe how much his dad had learned. to that effect anyway...my paraphrase.

Lisa Milton said...

Genius is never recognized at home. Silly kid.

Great shot.

guild-rez said...

..first thought.. it is an orange ..second thought.. never mind..
this is fun.. great shots,
Gisela

Daniel J Santos said...

excellent post, nice play with photos, well done.

Old Wom Tigley said...

Great set of pictures David.. and interesting reading as well.
I have two sons who would have said much the same..ha!
I've put you on Mr. Linky as requested and started the ball rolling. I'm just hoping I don't make a hash of it all for Dot.

Andrea said...

Cute post. I have never been in a hot air balloon.....I like solid ground.

SandyCarlson said...

Just a return visit from Tom's Mr. Linky. Seeing suchimages twice in one day is good for the health.

jillie said...

What BEAUTIFUL pictures. I have been dying to get a new camera lately. Just don't know where to begin. Love to take pictures as well. The lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument is just beautiful and I go there often. Very peaceful.

Thanks for stopping by and g'day to you too! Come back again ;o)

RuneE said...

Well composed, pictures, author's comments - and son's comments...

Ms.L said...

LOL,aren't teenage boys awesome?;p
Mine is 14 and apparently I am not nearly as cool or smart as I thought I was!

I never would have guessed that's what the orb in your photo was!

San said...

Wow, I would never have imagined that that balloon could be photographed to look like that--so fraught with mystery.

And your son is faithfully living up to his job description as a teenager.

Misty Dawn said...

You are such a creative and clever man, my friend!

I'll be posting my sky watch photos on my blogs a little late tonight - I've got a banquet to go to for entering a photo contest ;-)

Anna said...

David your son is funny, lol. Before scrolling down I thought it was some falling fruit off the tree, and you got the moment to capture it, but after all you got real moment, this shot is absolutely amazing, just the yellow color on the blue (a very blue sky) makes it all wonderful. Thanks for sharing. About the lens, 300 mm is good focal length. I used to have one, and I was happy until I realized I needed more, so now I am at 400mm, it is great, but not much of a difference, just the additional perks that come with this Canon lens. I also have one sigma lens (wide angle), and this one is really cool, the landscape are just super amazing taken with this lens. You mention macro lens, I am in the market for one, just in the research mode right now, cannot make up my mind what I want yet. Hey, thanks for drop in to my blogging world and your comments are much appreciated. Enjoyed reading your post, Anna :)

Dirty Knees said...

I feel the excitement in your writing, David. YES! Way to go!

I hope your son didn't take any of the joy out of your new toy. The good thing about teenagers is...they DO grow up. ;-)

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

Great captures. The clarity, bearing in mind the distance, is really something. There is certainly some good tech stuff available nowadays.

Colleen said...

Okay. First I want to say totally cool photo shots and explaination. Never would have figured out what that was. What an amazing lense! Second- that's pretty funny about your son!

starnitesky said...

Typical teenage comment, anyway I thought the shot was interesting. Enjoy your lens ( I would love one!!!)

Corey~living and loving said...

So glad to hear that you are bonding with the new lens. :) how fun.

love these shots.

Kathryn said...

I love those pictures. I love that the balloon says "love" on it. I love that each picture creates a different feeling even though the same items are in each pic. Love it.
Sassy boy. ;)

Hammer said...

Next time tell him it's a photo of him ;D

You picture reminds me of the balloon fiesta in New Mexico the sky would be littered with hundreds of colorful baloons of all shapes and sizes.

Dave Coulter said...

Hard to digest a word like "autumn" when the ice is slowly leaving us! Beautiful colors in that shot. Blue & yellow are an awesome contrast.

And lime beat me to the punch with that Twain quote!

imac said...

Clever old Dad I would say.
Nice one David.
Glad you like your new lens.

Pop over and see my Sky.

D... said...

Look at that blue sky!

My hubby is starting to learn about DoF. I'm still as clueless as I ever was. ;)

I see it's the same in your family too. No respect! Hee!

Gawdess said...

The last shot with the clear view of the side of the balloon is possibly my favourite - I love my 70-300mm lens too. I used it during the moon eclipse last month!

Marie said...

This series of shots are something special! Great shots!!!

Pernille's ting og tang said...

Nice and creative photo to day:)

Sharon said...

What a great catch. I enjoyed reading about the thought and creative process. That last picture is my favorite, the bricht blue and yellow together is very appealing ot me. I am going to buy a new camera in the next few months so have been reading and trying to learn about them.

gmj said...

I thought orange, as in peel and eat for breakfast. :) So neat, to see balloons for breakfast. Great shots.

myrtle beached whale said...

I stumbled upon your blog. You are a very interesting person. I wish I had the discipline to write as much as you do. I am now going to find and read your novel.
http://myrtlebeachramblings.blogspot.com/2008/03/meme-from-bellamocha-6-random-things.html

DigitalShutterMania said...

Oh great story with photos.

jillie said...

How sweet of you to offer your knowledge on cameras. The one I have is a Canon Power Shot SD400 elph. It works great in bright lights. But whenever there is motion or low light, FORGET IT! So I have a friend who has a Canon I believe and the pictures he gets from it are beautiful in low light. It looks like a full size 35mm. I probably won't have time to look for one before I leave for Mexico. But I will be sure to let you know when I do.

;o)

barman said...

I thought it was the moon. I just did not see how it could have been something that was moving all that fast. I never once thought of a hot air balloon. Silly me, I have been going to a festival in Kentucky for about 20 years now and one of the events is a hot air balloon race. I have more that a few pictures of them and they always look so lovely against the sky. None as wonderful as the wonderful sky and contrast of the vivid colored balloon. Then to toss in the DoF, genius. I love all three pictures.

A question for you. Did you use any type of polarizing filter on this picture? It is just so vivid that it almost screams that to me.

I have a 70 200 at a constant f2.8 for my canon that is wonderful. I can use it inside with low light situations and get great pictures. But somehow outside it is lacking a little. I have been toying with getting a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter for the lens. Now I really have the itch seeing what you have done.

Thanks for sharing not only the wonderful photos but also the story behind them. Have a wonderful time with the lens and don't worry about the son. I think all children go through that phase. He will grow out of it.

Sharon said...

I forgot to say what a funny story I thought this was. Teenagers!

My Sky Watch is up now.

Anne-Berit said...

I never would have guest, hehe.The yellow baloon and the blue sky matc perfectly.Nice chot:o)

Janice Thomson said...

Ahhh kids! LOL
An awesome set of photos David and much appreciation for the technique used. I agree with 'Quintaratino': there is much more talent than good luck involved. Your photography is superb.

LZ Blogger said...

Amazing what a little DOF and (focus) can do for a photo isn't it? Thanks for stopping my my blog and saying HI! ~ jb///

OHmommy said...

Nice! I like your play with depths. :)

leslie said...

My gosh! I did laugh out loud at your son's comment! So typical of teenagers...

Jeff B said...

I'll bet you're like a kid in a candy store with that new lens. The nice thing is that we get to enjoy it too through your amazing photographs.

Carla said...

Great pictures! I certainly didn't expect a hot air balloon.

Sandi McBride said...

Hey, I was all for the Edam cheese and wondering if you planned to share. You know, the mystery is the best part of the fun!
Sandi

byrningbunny said...

Very cool. I have lens envy. My first guess was a tennis ball.

katydidnot said...

that is totally awesome. like totally.

flyingstars said...

WoW...this is a simply wonderful series of shots...love the focus & the DOF of the shots...at first glance I thought perhaps it was the moon in the background...great captures & lovely work...have a wonderful weekend ahead!

Nice to know your Calcutta background too.

Kalyan

Kimberly said...

Oh my, that gave me such a giggle.

I shouldn't laugh though. I'll have teenagers some day.

I was going to say beach ball as my guess.

Paulie said...

Interesting puzzle for us to solve. I thought it was a playground ball in the air. Nice that you have a new lens -- I still have to trod along with my 6 year old camera.

Seemu said...

Good One! Hahahahah! Your kid sure has sense of humour!

Seemu said...

Thank you for the visit to my blog!

Well... although I'm a grown-up by age I think my brain still has a long way to go! Hahahah! No no! Not retarded! Just the kid in me hasn't left yet... I like living the light side of life... and so I give full support to your kid!

Comments like his can be cherished and someday I'm sure you'll smile thinking about it. Isn't it coz u were partly amused that you even posted his comment here.

chanpheng said...

Cool picture. I thought at first that it was the sun with ketsup or a bad case of sunspots. You can remind your son about his comments in ten years, or after he has kids!

Shrinky said...

Wonderful shots, David. The 300mm lens is also the one I tend to favour the most, I can see you're having lots of fun with your new toy (grin).
Tell your son he's only jealous!

Mima said...

Nice shots, just goes to show what you can do with DOF, its great fun to play with isn't it! I'd love to go up in a hot air balloon (even though I am scared of heights) it must be an amazing feeling.

lynn said...

That was sooooooo interesting!

Angie said...

Hi,
Fantastic shots! Have to confess I know zilch about different lenses, my little camera is the point and shoot variety.
Ps, Aren't teenage sons just wonderful,lol

pts said...

haaaaahaa funny.

Anemone said...

VERY lovely :-)
Love from Norway as well :-)

Deslilas said...

Another good way to communicate with the sky.
Greatest post I 've seen today.

Juliana RW said...

Beautifull..

My SWF in here Thanks.

picturing of life said...

You always have wonderfull photos :D Great job.

Will you visit my SWF Thanks

Petunia said...

I never would have guess!
Very lucky nice and smart shot!
Have a nice weekend!

Bing said...

That is surely a very nice shot and not stupid at all LOL!

Happy Skywatch!

Daryl E said...

An honest son is worth a lot but a good lens is priceless

LUIZ SANTILLI JR. said...

Almost an Flying Object No Identified!!!

Here, in Brazil we call OVNI!!

Interesting shot!

Luiz

Anita said...

You had me stumped...

Love the rest of the shots, too... And your son's response is so classic "teenager"!!!

Small City Scenes said...

That's quite neat. Some day when your irreverent son is grown and he will do something he thinks is neat and will as his son the same question and get the same answer. All in time. You sure are having fun with that camera. MB

nitebyrd said...

I thought it was an orange you threw up there.

Beautiful photos. Don't you just LOVE kids? LOL

skinnylittleblonde said...

Ha! What a great hot air balloon. Too bad so many of us live our lives like Peace & Love are simply full of hot air too. Your camera is great...you do a great job with it. And as for your teenage son, before long he'll be a man & as we all, know Dad's become wiser as that transition unfolds. P&L!

Anna said...

I really like that first picture. Thanks for explaining how you do all this.

You son makes me laugh. Teenagers! One of these days he'll learn to appreciate what you do.

CHEWY said...

Ha! I've posted a new painting and I've been told it looks like a hot air balloon.

alexander said...

What an amazing shot! Love is in the air!

Have a great weekend!

Alexander
Alex's World! - http://www.kakinan.com/alex

Sandy Kessler said...

The first shot almost looks like a three d hologram-

suchsimplepleasures said...

really cool!!
and...your son...hilarious!

Dick said...

Your son didn't take a long time to think of an answer, did he? But your photos are very clear and colorful.

Charles Gramlich said...

That's very cool. Definitely looks like an approaching sun or something. That makes a good SF image.

Yolanda said...

I love all of these shots. This was a nice capture.

marcia said...

that was cool and thank you thank you for the lesson and the push to get the zoom lens i want

GAWO said...

Wow, that is great.
Nice post.

Craver Vii said...

Excellent pictures, but what ever happened to that cheese ball?

Kim said...

I would love to go on a hot air balloon ride in Australia. That sounds amazing. I almost posted a picture I took of hot air balloons in New Mexico, but it definitely wouldn't have been as good as yours with the awesome lens.

Lana G! said...

I love your "something stupid" shots! Great affect.

holly said...

oh whenever i don't click select all and then copy before posting? it doesn't post. (shakes fist) blogger!!!!

yes, i was saying that your son needs to go to this site:
http://pthththththth.blogspot.com/
as my response to his father-disrespecting. cuz, you know, it's my business. and you may also let him know that he is not welcome in my local starbucks until his ways are most thoroughly changed on this matter.

Amrita said...

This is making me envious. David LOL. You are super

quilly said...

I couldn't guess what the first picture was, I was too busy being jealous!

And what is that line in the Bible about a prophet not being respected in his own hometown? Much less so a family member in their own home ....

ed said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.