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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Finding Bats

Bats are not easy to find. They spend their nights in the air hunting for insects, and as day approaches they will find the most inaccessible places to wedge themselves into. For many species, this day time roost might be in a new spot every day. This is a problem if you want to study bats, and biologists are finding a variety of creative ways to locate bats.

Enter the Bat Dog.


CJ, a chocolate lab working as a trained wildlife detector dog, tries to find bat roosting sites along with his handler, wildlife technician Elisabeth Mering in the Coconino National Forest in Arizona. Note the gps unit that will track CJ's evey move.


Once CJ detects the sent of bat guano, he will alert.


Here, tucked under the bark of a dead ponderosa tree is a maternity colony of allen's lappet-browed bats. It looks like chaos, but there are about 17 bats crammed together in this tiny spot.


As night falls, they slowly pop out from under the bark and head out into the night.


Little is known about this rare species.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Photomerge and the Forest

Photoshop has been a trusty piece of software for me since the 90's, and through it s various incarnations I have diligently learned its new features and workflow improvements. One thing I have always struggled with, however, is the "photomerge" feature. Even when I would carefully shoot a scene for stitching together later, I often found that "photomerge" would not quite line up edges correctly and I would end up doing the work by hand using layers.

Not anymore. Photoshop CS3 has made a startling improvement in the algorythm that combines mutliple images into one, large final scene. One of the great challenges for "photomerge" was any busy, complex scene that had complicated tones, textures and color - like a forest scene.

I dug around in my archive for images I had shot for "photomerge" but had never actually combined successfully - nor had I taken the time to do so by hand.

An example: The History Channel sent me to Malaysia last year. The rainforests on the peninsula are hot, steamy and ancient places with asian elephants and tigers hidden in the thickets. Like any forest, it can be quite challenging to make interesting compositions. Add three or four leeches that unavoidably find their way onto your body, and you have even more distractions. I never could get these images to stitch together until CS3.


More recently I ventured into the Columbia River Gorge during an ice storm.


The contrast between the frozen forest and the tropical jungle is interesting.

While the "panorama" is the traditional method for composing stitched images, I often will also make four or more exposures into a larger square. These become impressively detailed image files.



Again CS3 made the process painless and gave very satisfying results.
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Details About Me

Portland, Oregon, United States
Husband, Father, Student Of Natural History, Photographer