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This image of flying cats came into our house on a paper bag from a local produce market. We have no idea what’s behind this.
I started calling a neighborhood cat the Shmoo Cat based on this encounter back in April, 2005. She wanders through the yard from time to time, moving furtively when she sees me. That is not the case for Vicki.
Sometimes the cat sits on our back steps, provoking a small amount of excitement from our indoor cats. The cat will move away if anyone comes out, but she will return to Vicki’s call. She’ll also accept a dish of water from Vicki as a neighborly offering.
Fourteen-year-old Teh Amor is inclined to sit on the edge of the bath tub in solitude between the decorative shower-curtain and the internal liner. Even then there can be evidence of his tail, and he’s not always very quiet about his presence.
The other day he demonstrated another version, simply parking on the floor behind the shower curtain in front of the bath tub. He appears to be waiting to be discovered.
We have no idea what this is about and what it provides, if anything, in the ordinary life of a cat, or of those cats who have never lived anywhere but in a human household.
This reminds me of the other curious behavior of our cats, especially Askani, who will crouch nosed into a corner with their back to everything happening in the room.
At the moment, Teh is running up and down the stairs and around my office as if he is chasing something. He just jumped onto my office chair, ran across my shoulders, and climbed onto my computer tower where he can look out the window. He lept onto the narrow window sill and is looking outside as if he is expecting something to appear.
Now he’s sitting on top of the open spiral notebook on my desk surface watching my fingers typing down at the keyboard tray. Oh, he put his paw down on the space bar and I had to back out that text.
I have no idea if this is anything like entertaining for the cat. It certainly is for me. Just so long as Teh doesn’t decide to take a bite out of my wrist as I move the computer mouse on the desk surface.
I just stumbled over the book “Do Cats Hear with their Feet?” in the local public library. It’s a quick read and, while I may have been reading faster than necessary, I don’t think the book answers that particular question.
What I did learn were some facts of cat territoriality that I had witnessed in an anecdotal fashion when Askani (pictured on the right) came into the life of our twins, litter mates Teh Amor and Princess Psyche (looking like a two-headed cat on the left, with Teh in front).
Since Teh and Princess came into my household as tiny kittens, they have been constant companions. They still nap and sleep together curled in a ball.
Askani had a hard time being accepted into that companionship, although there are moments of quiet truce.
The first problem was that the original female, Princess was so disturbed about the arriving stranger that she hissed and agitated when anything black was nearby. This created a problem for Teh, who didn’t understand what this had to do with him. Teh spent a great deal of time flopping on his side and being submissive to Princess. (On occasion, when Teh would be agitated over another cat seen or scented outside our windows, he also was aggressive to all other cats in sight, including his sister.)
Askani was mostly a scaredy-cat during those early times, spending a great deal of time under furniture. She still tends to do that, although she also has some off-the-floor places where she will curl up and sleep undisturbed by the other cats.
The first signs of a truce came in the first years in Sunnyvale, California, when all three cats decided it was all right to sleep together on the bed with Vicki and I, so long as the twins (also known as the kids and the teen-agers) were on one side of our sleeping bodies and Askani found a spot on the opposite side.
For the ten years we have been together in Seattle, there’s been a new pattern. Teh is agressive with Askani and the fur flies from time to time, far more than when he scraps with his sister. On other occasions, Askani will take a paw-swipe at either of them passing too close to her, and she is the one with the growling and hissing over intrusions too far into her personal space.
Lately, they have found a common hang-out on the comforter-covered sofa in my office where there is the only day-time human presence. Askani is the regular, with an occasional appearance of the twins. At night, they all spend their time here and I am sleeping on the sofa so that my phenomenal snoring does not disturb the peace of the household upstairs. They arrange themselves around my body atop the comforter with Askani at one end, usually along my flank, and with the twins curled up at my feet.
They have also become comfortable being together alone on the sofa, with or without the teddy bear as a barrier. But it is clear that the twins are family and Askani is not of that clan. I also think my presence in the room influences their good behavior with each other.
The teddy bear came with the twins. I recently unearthed it while going through some boxes in the storage room adjacent to my basement office. I have been putting it on the sofa just for fun. It doesn’t seem to mean anything to any of the cats, except for Teh. He will use the poor teddy for kneading his claws in some sort of tactile frenzy. I supposed that is better than his usual attacks on arms of the sofa, but not by much.
The village-of-the-damned-cats eyes are a consequence of using on-camera flash. I used this photograph anyway, since here Askani has her eyes open while being wary about the goings-on, but not wary enough to rouse herself and move.
Now that I have rearranged my work area, the heat-seeking obsessions of cats are more evident.
Technorati Tags: Italy, Tuscany, cats, Friday cat pictures, Victoria E. Hamilton, agriturismo, Lastra a Signa
The afternoon of our arrival near Florence on November 7, 1998, this farm kitten has checked out Vicki, the cat magnet, and decided she is welcome.
We’re on our second visit to Italy. This time, we’re having our first look at Tuscany, the place of Vicki’s dream of herself in a peasant blouse, blue feet, a glass of wine in one hand, a plate of pasta in the other. She has dreamed of Italy since she was a child. Now, she’s here to connect dream and reality.
We flew into Pisa, spending two nights there before picking up our rental car and driving to Villa Saulina, an agriturismo –- farm with tourist accommodations –- outside of Florence. After visiting Florence, Siena, Lucca, Volterra, and many villages and sites of the area, we returned to Pisa for two more nights and our return to Silicon Valley.
I applied for a special retirement-incentive package in May 1998 and my retirement date has been set for December. We are here determining whether we are prepared to move to Italy for the next stage of our life. The answer is yes.
From January 9, 2009, a glimpse of Maple sitting among the humans at a small dinner among friends. Maple may not be too sure about the photographer, here, although the cat seems quite at home among the crowd at one of the Snell’s annual holiday parties.
This fellow watches over the gas kiln at the Moshier Community Art Center in Burien, Washington, where Vicki is an instructor, part of the “firing squad,” and also a resident potter.
While it is not Friday, the photograph was taken on Friday, January 30, on the occasion of the Empty Bowls event there. The folks there tease me over the number of photographs that I take and that none get to see. So here’s one as a promise of more to come.
This is cross-posted to The Kiln Sitter’s Diary because it is appropriate to the theme there and that was my inspiration to post this.
My first non-human animal photograph was of a dog. My first cat picture was of a neighborhood stray who wandered into our yard in South Tacoma on Sheridan Avenue just north of 56th Street. We put water out for it and I think there were times when my dad fed it. The cat was pretty scruffy and would also show up with various wounds from time to time. The cat was around for only a brief time.
I am not sure what appealed to me about the cat, but there is some residual fondness when I look at the photograph. I have similar affection for our oldest Bombay, Askani.
I date the picture to around 1954. It was taken with a borrowed Kodak Pony 35 or possibly my original Praktiflex FX. If it was a slide, it was probably on Anscochrome.
I thought that the print I had was from a slide, but I can’t find it. This image is recovered from a Kodacolor print that has experienced considerable deterioration. Using an H-P Scanjet, I scanned the print into a full-color 600spi TIFF file with cropping (to 2” by 3”) and preservation of all the range I could find. The final corrections were made with Nikon Capture NX 2 where I could work on brightness, contrast, range, and correction to the neutral points in the image. I should do this with other images where I only have prints before their color deteriorates further.
Son Nathaniel Whitten has Vicki’s automatic acceptance by cats (and vice versa). Here, Princess Psyche has found Nat to provide a convenient high perch and is on alert for a higher place to visit. She and brother Teh Amor have the Burmese and Bombay fondness for heights, although at 14 Princess is not so energetic about seeking them out.
With the unusual cold, snow, and ice in Seattle in December, it was difficult for Vicki to travel from West Seattle to sit with the cat while its human family was in California for the holidays. We were basically icebound and driving was out of the question.
Vicki learned how to travel there by bus (1.5-3 hours on delayed, snow-adjusted routes), spending the morning and afternoon, keeping the lonesome kitty company. On Christmas Day we went together, preparing a French toast breakfast and keeping the cat company.
‘Chhichi was very lonely and cried for an hour or longer when we first arrived. Fortunately, a stay-over cat sitter, the other grandmother, arrived that afternoon and the cat was restored to accustomed companionship.
Another satisfying part of visiting Monchhichi for the day was the availability of DSL service and a 4-port router that I was able to connect directly into the Ethernet port of Quadro, my Tablet PC. That allowed me to perform the initial setup for the blog that I have long threatened to set up for Vicki, her Millennia Antica: Kiln Sitter’s Digest. By the next day she had made her first-ever blog post.
Catnip Camera is a a photo-documentary series created by attaching a camera to the collar of Cooper, a Seattle neighborhood cat. The CAT CAM set is available on Flickr. The Seattle Weekly also covered Cooper’s catumentary.
Athima Chansanchai’s Are You on Catnip Camera? article is the most read and most e-mailed seattlepi.com article at the moment. I can’t find any pictures that have free-to-post distribution or reproduction rights, so here’s the consolation prize from my recent cat photographs:
Usually when I am working close with my 105mm lens, the cats don't give me eye contact long enough for a clean photograph. This one (cropped here) shows my good fortune. I love that the surrounding fur frames the eye of little Princess Psyche.
I think some of the clarity of this image is attributable to the Nikon SB-600 flash with Omnibounce on a side bracket, the closest I could match the pistol-grip flash handle used with my analog camera (shown to the right in a photo taken with my webcam). I looked for a digital-camera-qualified version of that flash and none of them work with this handle. I may end up scavenging it and kit-bashing it at some point, turning it into a bracket for shoe-mounted flashes like the SB-600. I might even use a Nikon cord to for the extension from my D80's hot shoe.
This shot doesn't qualify as a Strobist submission because the SB-600 is tethered and not far off the camera. It also has an interesting defect, although Vicki thinks it adds something to the image: the photographer, camera, and speedlight are all visibly reflected in the cat's eye.
But I do like the result. Yes I do.
Reflections: My 1992-purchased Nikon 8008s (pictured) was already smarter than its owner, as was almost the case with the 2020 before that. This year's purchase of a D80 shows me how much smarter it is than the owner: It embarrasses me with the raft of features and settings over which I have no comprehension. Once I obtained the SB-600 speedlight, it was clear that the flash is smarter than me too. I have lots of practice to make up before I can again utter that I once (over 50 years ago) fancied becoming a photographer.
Modern photographic equipment: Whether or not the D80 and newer high-end cameras like the D3 are too feature-laden with too many options (sort of the Microsoft Office of its breed), it is clear that the digital era has revolutionized photography and creation of other electronic media. In addition to easy entry levels, the affordability of high-powered equipment for amateurs and enthusiasts is telling. There is another phenomenon. The capabilities and economy of competing high-end Nikon and Canon digital SLR lines is leaving little room for after-market suppliers. I don't think anyone can price-compete with the SB-600, for example, and the loss of functionality for lower-priced alternatives is pronounced. I think this has a giant impact on the market, even in the (vanishing) stores where professionals shop. (The difference for the pro seems to be ruggedness, durability, and extreme optical quality.) OK enough pontification. What's needed from me is more pictures and more experiential mastery of my tools.
[update 2008-11-27 [Happy U.S. Thanksgiving Day] In bringing this post over from Orcmid’s Live Hideout I failed to repair one of the links to land here rather than back there. I finally remembered to do that while I was situated to act on it.
[update 2008-10-27: I couldn’t stand the way the picture worked so I am putting in a different one and discussing how it came to be so different.]
I am substituting the tightly-cropped version (above), sacrificing the dangling tail of the first arrangement (below). At the same time, I realize that I had over-warmed and –saturated the image. To be sure that I obtained something more like I had in mind, I recalibrated my new LCD monitor with Calibrize (thanks to LifeHacker). This seems to work better than my hueyPro which seems to be confused by my video pipeline. On the other hand, I may be the one who is confused, having not figured out how to calibrate my display properly by any means.
You, as the viewer, have no idea what I have in mind as a proper presentation of the photograph, above, and the alternative that I found unsatisfactory, below (although the difference in cropping should be obvious). You can click on the Calibrize button and find your own balanced monitor adjustment (or use your favorite alternative for non-Windows platforms).
That makes this updated post into fodder for my confirmable-experience soapbox and there’ll be more about that in further posts. Meanwhile, it is time to shop for Halloween candies for the Friday night visitors. I have a great cat-picture repost to put up at that time.
I really wanted to keep Teh Amor’s tail in the picture, but it makes the composition really cock-eyed. Looking at it, I think the only solution would be to separate out the two figures and ditch the tail and the framing of them together.
The original photograph was taken on Wednesday, October 22, on one of those unexpected and delightful snappy autumn days with bright sunshine. One or both of the twins will usually laze in the sun on the window side of the vertical blinds. I have no idea what has them facing into the room. I was anxious that they not decide to hop down and come closer to see what I was doing.
I’m holding the camera vertically, with the on-camera pop-up flash on the right. Teh decided to look right into it, hence the village-of-the-demon-cats effect.
No, they’re not dressing up for Halloween and yes, it is a week early. Maybe they’ve over-dosed on the run-up to the US Presidential Election. Could be Princess still yearns for Hilary, or maybe for John Edwards?
Princess is the female of our two litter mates. She and her brother celebrated their 14th birthday in September 2008. Their mother, Cleopatra, was a beautiful Burmese with golden eyes and rich brown coat. These black cats have sable highlights in their coats from mom, who has kept dad a secret all these years. (The blue cast is from the lighting.)
Princess is showing her age here. The crow wandered outside my office window and she was alerted enough to hop up onto one of my computer towers for a better look. She has learned that diving at the window doesn't accomplish anything and was content to observe. She's still playful and she is also a scold. Every morning I am scolded until I pet her until one of us can't stand it any longer. I don't know why she is scolding me, but petting is what we settle for.
I have been practicing capturing their eyes, which I find so intricate and beautiful. The cats are a bit camera shy, so it is difficult to get the view and lighting just right. Sometimes I get close to what I am after. The whiskers are turning white and thick, with a little salt in the pepper of her black coat.
I'm still practicing with my recently-acquired digital camera and struggling with indoor lighting and color balance for these photos. These images have all been tweaked from the raw files using Nikon Capture NX. I think I need to spend some time with test images and the Help system.
[update 2008-10-17 This is part of my migratory episodes from Orcmid’s Live HideOut. I have nothing in particular to add to this beyond capturing the material here on Orcmid’s Lair, with my own control over its archiving and preservation.]
The sweet cat that my sister raised from a kitten died on May 27. It’s hard for me to imagine what the lengthy period of companionship represents.
Our youngest cats were 14 this September and I know we’d miss any of them, even while thinking how nice it would be to be able to go on trips and not be concerned for their care.]
My sister's cat Streaks is 21 years old. She is not so kittenish, but she still has her moments and is a loving cat. She sat still for me setting up a new Vista Home Premium PC in the room where she usually spends most of her time undisturbed.
Now her human has found more games to play. Wait until the broadband is installed, Squeaks.
[update 2008-10-10 This retrospective re-post is part of my preservation of material originally posted on Orcmid’s Live Hideout. I am consolidating the material I want to preserve here and on Professor von Clueless in the Blunder Dome. These blogs are at my own hosted web site, are fully backed-up on my SOHO system, and can be moved at will. I prefer that.
update 2007-09-11 Uh, the cat's name is Streaks, not Squeaks. I must have Smalltalk on the brain.]
I was not set up for nature photography from some remote-controlled blind. I happened to have my camera at my desk, and I used the opportunity to grab several shots very quickly without moving around much and shying the cat away. Teh's arrival was also sudden and unexpected. I wasn't sure how long he would stay on the narrow window sill. I shot very rapidly and did not adjust the exposure or focus at all. I was never sure when either cat would bolt from the window.
With CaptureNX,I now know to go through the basic setting first, thanks to the second day of Nikon School. Because I use Nikon's RAW format all of the time, I was able to over-ride some of the exposure adjustments that were made in the camera. I changed the exposure compensation to over-expose the images and bring up the shaded foreground as much as was safe. The white balance was adjusted for cloudy daylight. This was all after the fact. To rescue the Teh Amor pictures, I also needed to be extra-creative with brightness and contrast. Seeing them together I see that it would have helped to take the contrast down some more and dull the back lighting to match the first image. I may try that again just to see how much better I can do.
I still don't have an efficient workflow, but I notice that I am learning to avoid experimenting with adjustments that won't be useful in a given situation. That picks up the pace, but there is still a great deal of trial-and-error, as you can see.
[update 2009-04-24T18:33Z I am moving this to Orcmid’s Lair from another blog that I want to obsolete. I am taking advantage of the now-supported categories/labels to organize them as well. I am now on Capture NX2 and have become more fluent in my workflow. There remains more to accomplish in terms of both the original photographs and the digital darkroom work.]
Having three black cats leads to our noticing how many other black cats there are in our neighborhood, and how many pass through our yard. I'm sure it is partly the yellow-Volkswagen phenomenon: It is noticeable for us because we have black cats in the house. All the same, I don't remember seeing many black cats when I was growing up, and now it is not an unusual occurrence. I can remember wanting to see a truly-black-all-over cat because I'd heard all of the stories about them, including the role we give them in Halloween, but it was a long time before I encountered a genuine black cat. Our cats are of the nondescript breed known as "Bombay," and I am not sure how the blackness is accounted for. The two litter-mate "kids" of our pride have a tiny pure-bread Burmese mom, Cleopatra, who's never told who her first fling was with in Mountain View, California. Cleo's genes are expressed in the sable reflection that you can see sometimes in the kids' coat, and also in their golden eyes. Her daughter is also tiny like mom. Our senior cat, Askani, was born in the Baltimore area and we have no clue to her lineage. When black cats stroll by in the neighborhood, it can be startling to see. We often wonder whether one of our cats has jumped out a window and is exploring the yard. This leads to a hurried census of the household, especially if we don't get a close look at the outdoor critter. In many cases, the visitor resembles Askani, who has been a hefty cat, as many of our outdoor passers-by are. I can also recognize Askani, our couch commander, in the postings about Dorothea Salo's cat, Didi, right down to the few light hairs on her chest. The appearance of a black shmoo is a pose that Askani has perfected too, one also affected by the well-fed neighborhood Bombays. My home office is in the basement level of the house, and I have a wide, low single-pane window that gives me a ground-level view out the side of the house. Seated at my computer lab I feel a little like the commander of the spherical lunar craft depicted in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Since I finally removed the insulating plastic film from the interior of the window (it had come loose and was sagging down after two years in place), I now must raise the blinds every morning to prevent our cats from bending and mutilating them as they climb through to see outside the window and walk along the narrow sill. I've been trained. Now the cats take turns sitting atop the tower of my desktop system where they have an unobstructed view of the passing scene, especially squirrels and birds and intruder cats. They have never seen a cat wander by this window, because there would be a certain memorable mayhem in such an event. But when I am working quietly in my office, I often see a neighborhood scout stroll past. They are usually startled to see me there, and are often not so nonchalant about it. My March visitor had been examining something in the plantings off to the side of the window when I noticed. I managed to reach my camera and work to the opposite edge of the window for a snapshot. It was unexpected for the cat to remain in one place so long, and I was able to focus the camera, more-or-less, and get a picture through the angle of the window. I think the cat heard the shutter mechanism and noticed my movement, because it slumped down in a kind of timid wariness. My second snapshot was quite enough and the animal scuttled off under the corner rhododendrons and out of site. Similarly, our Askani was a timid indoor-outdoor cat when she first joined our household in 1995. She retains some of that furtively alert quality ten years later, although she seems completely at ease most of the time. There was a black Bombay kitten that visited our back porch last Fall, and Vicki would put water out for her. I wonder if this is that little one, grown and wiser in the ways of the street life of cats. There's no collar and we don't know if there's a household haven nearby. She seems clean and well-fed enough to be someone's outdoor cat.
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