SciBlogs

Archive May 2012

Creatures of the night – NZ spiders Brendan Moyle May 28

No Comments

One thing about NZ spiders many don't appreciate, is that a lot of them are nocturnal. The jumping spiders or wolf spiders may be out during the day, but most of the others prefer the night. If you are basically a small bag of protein to any bird that's about, it doesn't pay to advertise your presence too widely. The night-time is your friend.

This means if you really want to see these guys, you have to go into the NZ bush at night, in the dark, and see what's around for yourself. This can be fascinating because this is one some of our largest native spiders make an appearance.

One of these is the tree trapdoor spider (family Migidae). These lurking predators lie in wait for any prey item that triggers their warning threads. Their strong limbs and large fangs suffice to subdue most prey.


Then there are the Amaurobiids. These large and agile spiders scout over the forest floor. You can sometimes hear them crashing through the undergrowth, chasing down prey (rats, feral pigs). Well, maybe not quite that large…but they are a good size.



Other hunters include our native Pisauriids- or the nurseryweb spider. These lurk on vegetation and rely upon their size to overpower any prey.


Most people will be familiar with the large sheetwebs that stretch- sometimes between trees- in the NZ bush. This is home to our native agelenids- in this case Cambridgea foliata.




Creatures of the night – NZ spiders Brendan Moyle May 28

No Comments

One thing about NZ spiders many don't appreciate, is that a lot of them are nocturnal. The jumping spiders or wolf spiders may be out during the day, but most of the others prefer the night. If you are basically a small bag of protein to any bird that's about, it doesn't pay to advertise your presence too widely. The night-time is your friend.

This means if you really want to see these guys, you have to go into the NZ bush at night, in the dark, and see what's around for yourself. This can be fascinating because this is one some of our largest native spiders make an appearance.

One of these is the tree trapdoor spider (family Migidae). These lurking predators lie in wait for any prey item that triggers their warning threads. Their strong limbs and large fangs suffice to subdue most prey.


Then there are the Amaurobiids. These large and agile spiders scout over the forest floor. You can sometimes hear them crashing through the undergrowth, chasing down prey (rats, feral pigs). Well, maybe not quite that large…but they are a good size.



Other hunters include our native Pisauriids- or the nurseryweb spider. These lurk on vegetation and rely upon their size to overpower any prey.


Most people will be familiar with the large sheetwebs that stretch- sometimes between trees- in the NZ bush. This is home to our native agelenids- in this case Cambridgea foliata.




To the sea! Coastal #Bird Album Brendan Moyle May 25

No Comments

I've done some updating of various photo albums on my zenfolio website. One of the ones that's had a makeover is the 'Coastal Birds" album. The intent of these makeovers is to just keep some good representative shots on public view, and move a lot of the less optimal photos into storage. This album has white-faced herons, royal spoonbills, pied stilts and the endangered NZ dotterel.


To the sea! Coastal #Bird Album Brendan Moyle May 25

No Comments

I've done some updating of various photo albums on my zenfolio website. One of the ones that's had a makeover is the 'Coastal Birds" album. The intent of these makeovers is to just keep some good representative shots on public view, and move a lot of the less optimal photos into storage. This album has white-faced herons, royal spoonbills, pied stilts and the endangered NZ dotterel.


How do you store your photos? Brendan Moyle May 24

No Comments

Digital photos can be much more ephemeral than prints & negatives. A hard-drive failure or a laptop theft can irrevocably eliminate thousands of photos. The trick as always, is to try to spread the risk.

So, this is what I do.

1) The external hard-drive. This is a good place to back photos up onto and can be done easily and regularly with the appropriate software. Advantages are that it is a cheap solution. Hard-drives are now one of the lowest cost storage options around. The disadvantage is that they're not actually archival. They're not going to last forever.

2) The internet. You can upload photos to all kinds of locations. I use my zenfolio website as a kind of off-site storage solution. This though limits me to jpegs or tiffs. The unlimited storage also comes at a regular cost. Other places offer free storage for files up to a certain limit, and will even store original raw files. But there's a limit on how much they'll allow. I'm a little wary about this internet-base storage solution. It is some comfort knowing that if my current residence gets buried in ash and lava from an eruption, these photos will be preserved. But the environmental cost of running large servers to store massive amounts of data does strike me as a little perverse.

3) Optical Discs. Yes, I'm still using them. The files sit inert on the disc, they have a longevity that exceeds any hard-drive, and they can be easily stored off site or away the computer. The disadvantage of Blu-Ray and DVD dics is that they are- relative to external drives- an expensive storage system. And they can take up more physical space. For that reason, I only backup some photos rather than all photos onto discs. I try to pick those photos I really don't want to lose. Unlike external drives or internet storage, there is literally no ongoing power costs to maintain the discs once they're written on.



How do you store your photos? Brendan Moyle May 24

No Comments

Digital photos can be much more ephemeral than prints & negatives. A hard-drive failure or a laptop theft can irrevocably eliminate thousands of photos. The trick as always, is to try to spread the risk.

So, this is what I do.

1) The external hard-drive. This is a good place to back photos up onto and can be done easily and regularly with the appropriate software. Advantages are that it is a cheap solution. Hard-drives are now one of the lowest cost storage options around. The disadvantage is that they're not actually archival. They're not going to last forever.

2) The internet. You can upload photos to all kinds of locations. I use my zenfolio website as a kind of off-site storage solution. This though limits me to jpegs or tiffs. The unlimited storage also comes at a regular cost. Other places offer free storage for files up to a certain limit, and will even store original raw files. But there's a limit on how much they'll allow. I'm a little wary about this internet-base storage solution. It is some comfort knowing that if my current residence gets buried in ash and lava from an eruption, these photos will be preserved. But the environmental cost of running large servers to store massive amounts of data does strike me as a little perverse.

3) Optical Discs. Yes, I'm still using them. The files sit inert on the disc, they have a longevity that exceeds any hard-drive, and they can be easily stored off site or away the computer. The disadvantage of Blu-Ray and DVD dics is that they are- relative to external drives- an expensive storage system. And they can take up more physical space. For that reason, I only backup some photos rather than all photos onto discs. I try to pick those photos I really don't want to lose. Unlike external drives or internet storage, there is literally no ongoing power costs to maintain the discs once they're written on.



The tip of the iceberg- what digital photography really costs Brendan Moyle May 17

No Comments

The appeal of digital cameras has often been their costs compared to film cameras. Or at least, that's what you might think. Film always takes money to buy, the develop and to print. And it's easy to quickly build up a collection of prints and negatives that are rarely ever seen again. Compared to this, the idea of taking digital pictures and storing them on a drive is well, apparently very cheap.

Then you start to realise just how these costs build up. It becomes obvious after a few attempts to get colours right on a jpeg shot or correct the exposure that this isn't optimal. And the blown highlights that occur if you overexpose are just plain annoying. So that means you make the move to shooting in raw. Raw files are much easier to correct, but then comes the first signs that costs are going to rise. Your computer is going to need a fast processor and some beefy RAM to process those pictures. And raw files are big. You might think you have lots of disk space but that can quickly get consumed. You can put the inevitable off by burning files onto disc or getting an external hard-drive, but suddenly new costs start to loom.

Then you realise that the software to convert photos that came with your camera is just too basic. So it becomes time to shell put more dollars to get a dedicated piece of software (fortunately I picked up my cope of Adobe Lightroom 3 when there was a brief online 50% off sale). Then as you start processing and editing photos more and more you realise the next problem. The mouse isn't precise enough. So lets get a Wacom Tablet and pen instead.

And that works ok for a while and then you realise how cramped it is to edit and process photos with just one monitor. Wouldn't it be easier to have one monitor where you could do the edits and another where you could see the changes at a 100% view? Of course it's easier! So lets spring for another monitor and the cable to connect it. (That often means finding a DVI cable as while your desktop and monitor may have both VGA and DVI slots, DVI cables aren't stocked in a lot of places).

Then you realise that the monitors aren't perfectly calibrated. The colours they display deviate from the printed shots. Easily fixed- just get a monitor calibrator. So lets add another gadget- a Spyder-Express Elite. It automatically checks and fixes the monitor to ensure it displays with accurate fidelity.

But things just don't stop there. What if your hard-drive fails or your computer gets stolen? Actually this isn't a trivial problem. Some people store almost all their photos on a laptop, and in burglaries these are often the first to go. Irreplaceable records of children or holidays or special occasions are lost in an instant. So now you have to think about backups. That can mean a mixture of portable hard-drives or optical discs. When I started into DSLR photography there were people who were burning files regularly on to CDs as backups. I now use a mix of blu-ray and DVD as backs ups. This isn't the cheapest option per unit of storage, but it's more archival and doesn't use any power after it's burned. I mean, just how many gadgets do you want plugged into power-boards anyway?

Hard-drives have become a lot cheaper now but even so, the upgrade path seems inevitable. I've gone form having a 160GB to a 1TB drive and both had the same ticket price. It's the drop in price that has made the portable hard-drive the preferred option for many. Now I'm considering another jump to 2TB and using eSATA cables rather the USB.

I'm really doubting that digital photography is the cheapest option :)




The tip of the iceberg- what digital photography really costs Brendan Moyle May 17

6 Comments

The appeal of digital cameras has often been their costs compared to film cameras. Or at least, that's what you might think. Film always takes money to buy, the develop and to print. And it's easy to quickly build up a collection of prints and negatives that are rarely ever seen again. Compared to this, the idea of taking digital pictures and storing them on a drive is well, apparently very cheap.

Then you start to realise just how these costs build up. It becomes obvious after a few attempts to get colours right on a jpeg shot or correct the exposure that this isn't optimal. And the blown highlights that occur if you overexpose are just plain annoying. So that means you make the move to shooting in raw. Raw files are much easier to correct, but then comes the first signs that costs are going to rise. Your computer is going to need a fast processor and some beefy RAM to process those pictures. And raw files are big. You might think you have lots of disk space but that can quickly get consumed. You can put the inevitable off by burning files onto disc or getting an external hard-drive, but suddenly new costs start to loom.

Then you realise that the software to convert photos that came with your camera is just too basic. So it becomes time to shell put more dollars to get a dedicated piece of software (fortunately I picked up my cope of Adobe Lightroom 3 when there was a brief online 50% off sale). Then as you start processing and editing photos more and more you realise the next problem. The mouse isn't precise enough. So lets get a Wacom Tablet and pen instead.

And that works ok for a while and then you realise how cramped it is to edit and process photos with just one monitor. Wouldn't it be easier to have one monitor where you could do the edits and another where you could see the changes at a 100% view? Of course it's easier! So lets spring for another monitor and the cable to connect it. (That often means finding a DVI cable as while your desktop and monitor may have both VGA and DVI slots, DVI cables aren't stocked in a lot of places).

Then you realise that the monitors aren't perfectly calibrated. The colours they display deviate from the printed shots. Easily fixed- just get a monitor calibrator. So lets add another gadget- a Spyder-Express Elite. It automatically checks and fixes the monitor to ensure it displays with accurate fidelity.

But things just don't stop there. What if your hard-drive fails or your computer gets stolen? Actually this isn't a trivial problem. Some people store almost all their photos on a laptop, and in burglaries these are often the first to go. Irreplaceable records of children or holidays or special occasions are lost in an instant. So now you have to think about backups. That can mean a mixture of portable hard-drives or optical discs. When I started into DSLR photography there were people who were burning files regularly on to CDs as backups. I now use a mix of blu-ray and DVD as backs ups. This isn't the cheapest option per unit of storage, but it's more archival and doesn't use any power after it's burned. I mean, just how many gadgets do you want plugged into power-boards anyway?

Hard-drives have become a lot cheaper now but even so, the upgrade path seems inevitable. I've gone form having a 160GB to a 1TB drive and both had the same ticket price. It's the drop in price that has made the portable hard-drive the preferred option for many. Now I'm considering another jump to 2TB and using eSATA cables rather the USB.

I'm really doubting that digital photography is the cheapest option :)




#Rhinos- the Aphrodisiac Confusion Brendan Moyle May 15

No Comments

From the usually well researched Economist magazine we have:

"Long prized in South-East Asia for its supposed medicinal and aphrodisiac vim, rhino horn is now being peddled as a cure for cancer too."

Please just stop peddling this baseless myth that rhino horn is an aphrodisiac. Nowhere in Traditional Chinese Medicine is rhino-horn recommended as an impotence solution.

It is used in traditional medicines as a cardiotonic or antipyretic [1]. This is actually a documented pharmacological effect. It may not be on par with Western medicinal alternatives but there is some medicinal value to rhino horn. You're not going to convince the traditional medicine community in Asia to take your claims seriously if you don't know these medicinal effects.



Rhinos are not being poached because of impotent Asian men wanting a cure. It is seriously counter-productive to propagate this myth. If you want to develop demand-reduction strategies, going after people who aren't using it is an utter waste of energy and resources.

[1] Mainka, S.A. and Mills, J. (1995). Wildlife and Traditional Chinese Medicine- Supply and Demand for Wildlife Species. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 26(2): 193-200.

#Rhinos- the Aphrodisiac Confusion Brendan Moyle May 15

No Comments

From the usually well researched Economist magazine we have:

"Long prized in South-East Asia for its supposed medicinal and aphrodisiac vim, rhino horn is now being peddled as a cure for cancer too."

Please just stop peddling this baseless myth that rhino horn is an aphrodisiac. Nowhere in Traditional Chinese Medicine is rhino-horn recommended as an impotence solution.

It is used in traditional medicines as a cardiotonic or antipyretic [1]. This is actually a documented pharmacological effect. It may not be on par with Western medicinal alternatives but there is some medicinal value to rhino horn. You're not going to convince the traditional medicine community in Asia to take your claims seriously if you don't know these medicinal effects.



Rhinos are not being poached because of impotent Asian men wanting a cure. It is seriously counter-productive to propagate this myth. If you want to develop demand-reduction strategies, going after people who aren't using it is an utter waste of energy and resources.

[1] Mainka, S.A. and Mills, J. (1995). Wildlife and Traditional Chinese Medicine- Supply and Demand for Wildlife Species. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 26(2): 193-200.