David R. Meldrum, MD
Photography - *click ONCE to enlarge personal images
A photo is a split second of experience frozen in time forever. With digital photography it’s something you can enjoy on your desktop in private or upload to a sharing program like Picasa so friends or even anyone in the world can view them.
And it’s a challenge and an art form. You can’t make up for being in the right place at the right time with the right light, but the angle from which you take it (perspective), the way you frame it (composition), camera adjustments, and a steady hand can all make a tremendous difference in the final picture.
Here is a perfect example of being in the right place at the right time with the right light. We were sitting having an early dinner in southern Chile in Puerto Varas, looking across the lake at Osorno Volcano. It was crystal clear, which is unusual, there was a light wind creating a uniform ripple on the water without a single boat or gust of wind to disturb it, and the sun was setting behind us. I looked out, grabbed my camera and ran out to take this picture. The pink glow only lasted for a few minutes and this incredible photograph captured a moment that might never occur again.
Sometimes being in the right place at the right time takes real planning. Photographers have spent hours waiting for the right moment. To capture these red-eyed green tree frogs was very special. We spotted them during a nighttime trek through the rainforest on the Oso Peninsula in the southwest corner of Costa Rica, but it was raining so heavily I couldn’t take out my camera. We persuaded the guide to take us to the same spot the next night where I captured this picture. The male is smaller and is stimulating her to ovulate. He then inseminates the eggs outside of the body and the eggs drop into the water to grow into embryos (tadpoles). If this sounds like what we do every day with IVF, it is. I admit they look a bit peeved at being interrupted in the act, but now this picture can be enjoyed by anyone passing by my office.
Another photo had special meaning for my work and publications (warning, it’s X-rated). This picture is of the Egyptian fertility god. Perhaps the ancient Egyptians recognized the link between fertility and erectile function (other than the obvious). I took this picture in the Valley of the Kings on the Nile after giving a lecture in Cairo where I was the guest of honor at a conference on Fertility. Note the absence of any potbelly, which is more common in sedentary men and interferes with nitric oxide production. See “Lifestyle and fertility” where I have discussed the effects of poor lifestyle habits on both erectile function and male fertility.
I mentioned angle (perspective). I took this picture of the Geiranger Fjord on the East coast of Norway from a road going up to our hotel. I didn’t see any better angle during our whole time there (this one was a vacation to my roots- the Meldrums began there before migrating to Scotland). Incidentally, one evening we drove down from dinner because we were late after hiking all day, and on the way back up the hill we stopped to offer a ride to an older gentleman. He looked at us like we were crazy- why would anyone ride when they can enjoy the exercise of a brisk walk after dinner? We felt pretty silly. Europeans walk most places and stay trim and healthy while Americans circle the parking lot to find the spot closest to the store entrance!
Composition can give a special effect – here’s one that I like. We were hiking in the lake district of Argentina and I framed this view of the lake with the dark shaded trees that bordered the hiking path.
Action can also be interesting. In this first photo I caught a mother monkey with baby on her back with its tail wrapped around hers jumping from tree to tree. In the photo below I caught a scarlet macaw gliding rapidly past.
Other times you can be just plain lucky.
In this series of four photos I caught a thoughtful look on this Costa Rica monkey’s face, had the luck to find a California hummingbird staying still, and snapped the third one through the front window of a small plane before the pilot landed on a glacier on the top of mount Cook in the south island of New Zealand. The last one was a real fluke. We were at the Club Med in Tahiti, taking a walk at sunset by the sports dock. I thought I probably couldn’t get it right without a tripod and a very slow shutter speed. I held the camera on a fence post and tried a 30th of a second (if I recall correctly), and it was one of my best.
Another time we had a combination of luck and wits. The light meter on my old 35 mm film camera that was a graduation present gave out as Claudia and I flew down through Mexico. We found a little camera shop on a small side street and the only way the resident camera expert could make it work was by suggesting a crazy setting for film speed and using manual settings for aperture and shutter speed. Claudia suggested running a role of film through and recording the settings. When we finally reached our destination in Peru at Machu Picchu high in the Andes for our anniversary (we took off a month), I managed to get some of the best pictures that old camera had ever taken. (hence another favorite expression: “if you don’t try you won’t succeed”).
Lastly, here’s my favorite picture from Africa. Since poaching became rare with strict game laws, elephants are overrunning some parts of Africa and destroying a lot of the trees (illustrated here). This was taken with a Nikon D40, 6megapixel camera and you can count the hairs on his chin. Incidentally, the size of the sensor is much more important than going above 6 megapixels, which is largely meaningless marketing with small cell phone cameras and small point and shoot cameras. Closely packed pixels can just bleed into each other.
Just one suggestion before ending this page -it’s hard to make up for a steady hand. I guess I honed that with doing microsurgery, but I do another little trick besides holding my breath and often using a VR (vibration reduction) lens. The muscular oscillations will have less travel when reversing direction, so I time the shutter with that point of reversal. It might sound a bit iffy, but give it a try.
OK- I have just one more helpful tip. If you have a digital picture you really like and want to blow it up but when you magnify it the picture becomes blurry, have a high quality print made at a size that's clear and do a high resolution scan of the print. You can sharpen it a bit more using Photoshop. Then you can make a larger print using the larger file. Our office manager, Diane, had three photos from Italy that were really very good. She has an innate knack with a camera, but she had the setting too low. I used the above trick and she made full-sized framed pictures for her new home that are spectacular. She had Kinko’s put them on a canvas that made them look really professional. I was amazed at how good they look. One was of the Colosseum in Rome that anyone making a travel brochure would love to have!
Below are just a few more photos you might like:
Here is a Capuchin monkey- they are common in the Manuel Antonio National park in Costa Rica.
These scarlet Macaws flew into the tree on the grounds of our hotel!
This tucan was in a tree on the grounds of our eco lodge making a terrible racket.
Recently we flew to Page, Arizona to do a photo tour of Antelope Canyon, one of the most photographed spots on the planet. Because of the low light a tripod is a must. The picture below was taken with aperture priority and F11 to give good depth of focus. The light shafts are made visible by the Navajo guide throwing a fine sand into the air.
And this is Redondo Beach, where one of our IVF programs is located. Redondo Beach has some of the most spectacular sunsets you will ever see.
Well, I hope I've infected you with the camera bug and the travel bug and that you've gotten to know me a bit better. If you join us as a patient you will see some of these same pictures and others scattered around my office and in the hallway outside. Hope to see you soon!