Terrible Tuesday

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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The situation in the IT department has not appreciably improved. Another layer of wires and discarded packaging has been added to the floor and my sensitivity to clutter has become numbed to the point where I can walk across it barefoot (my normal office footwear) without noticing.

I did have one minor success yesterday. I needed to test a lot of gizmos to see what works and what doesn’t. Treading back and forth across the shop to access a testing case with minimal guts to make it run seemed excessive. I decided to make an “accessible” computer test rig next to my regular computer so that I can reach it from my chair.

The question was how to do it without creating a fire hazard. My solution:  bolt a computer to the wall:

My "bolted to the wall" computer

I unpacked a new motherboard, CPU and memory. The motherboard has inbuilt video, so that simplified matters. I screwed the motherboard to the wall and hooked up the power supply. I fetched a new SATA hard disk drive and a SATA DVD reader/writer which I stuck to the desk with double sided tape. I made a little frame for the hard disk drive and screwed it to the desk. After plugging everything in it came up to the BIOS level on the first try. I plugged in a netork cable, loaded Widows 7 on it and everything came up like a new garden in the spring.

I like it so well (it’s faster than my regular computer) that I think I’ll give the old one away.

Well, that is about the maximum amount of space that I’m willing to devote to computers today, since I’m up to here  with them.

So, how about a nice juicy bug on a pretty yellow flower?  This little guy was chomping away as if he hadn’t eaten for weeks. I you look carefully, you’ll see another smaller insect sticking his head out from behind one of the petals (at the bottom) to see when his turn is due:

Bug on a yellow flower

The shot above is a nice example of a serendipitous conjunction between lens physics and art. The backgound is, of course, very blurred, since the subject is so close and the lens cannot focus on both near and far objects simultaneously (a depth of field thing). However, in this case, the background has become a circus of psychedelic colours and patterns – a very pleasant side effect.

On the way to the office a couple of days ago, as I was motoring along Coronation Drive, the sunrise lured me out of the car for this shot:

Sunrise with one Flying Fox

If you exaimine the far upper left corner you will see one lonely Flying Fox.

Since I’m switched on full-auto in random mode, I’ll lock and load one diver:

Pascal Michon in the background

That’s my buddy Pascal Michon, our resident Frenchman, drifting obliviously toward the anchor rope of Faded Glory  while I snap his photograph. It’s a nice example of how you can use flash for dramatic effect. My preference is usally for available light. In this case, however, the shot would not have been nearly so interesting.

I’ve got time for a couple of images that I got recently up at Bludblood. This one shows a land crab hole and the balls of sand that they pile up next to the opening:

Land crab hole at Blueblood

The balls of sand are sometimes amazingly round and stacked much more neatly than you see here. I don’t get it. It seems like a terrific waste of energy to me. Why should a crab squander energy making these neat balls of mud and stacking them all in the same place?

This last shot is nothing special, but I do like the colours. I was sitting close to the barbie at Blueblood a couple of weeks ago and started aimlessly catching images of the fire. This one came out pretty nice.

Fire in the barbie at Blueblood

And with that, I’ll leave you. I’m getting out of this mess at the office for the evening. I’m going to drink an SP Export Lager, smoke an Antonio y Cleopatra dark wrap cigar (the cheapest that I can find), read a little and pet my dog Sheba.

And forget about computers for a while.

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Disastrous Monday

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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If you take a quick look at the image below, you’ll have a general idea of why my comments will be brief this Monday morning. It’s enough to say that it was “one thing leads to another” without getting into the gory details. Piles of wire on the floor are always a bad sign. A blank screen at the left of the server farm is even worse:

My disastrous office

So, to salve my aching pride concerning my care of duty, let me show you some bats. The Flying Foxes are fiendishly difficult to photograph. The are really quite black and are usually backlit by a bright sky or confusing foliage which is also more reflective than the bats themselves. So, what you usually get is black blobs with no detail.

I’m happy to demonstrate that I’m getting a little better at doing it. This was taken from street level with the Olympus SP-590UZ on the “Bird Watching” scene setting. I also turned on the backlight compensator thingie. A few minutes with Photoshop and a little cropping for the sake of composition and voila . . . actually visible Flying Foxes:

Flying Foxes

They have been nuts about this tree for a few weeks. Now I can see why. It is full of little red fruits of some kind. You can see them better if you click to enlarge. The bat on the far right is looking straight at me.

On Saturday afternoon, we went out to Kranket Island  after our dive. I got this shot of Miriam swimming. She is a powerful swimmer. I like this shot not because it is worth anything technically, but is does convey a nice sense of action:

Miriam swimming in Kranket Lagoon

There was other water play going on in the opposite direction:

Kids playing at Kranket Island

Twenty eight years ago my son was playing in these same trees.

I seem to have gotten into a habit of leaving my favourite shot until last. Here’s it for the day. I got this shot several months ago up at Blueblood. It’s a long telephoto from the Olympus and it took a bit of work to clean it up:

Boys in a canoe at Blueblood

As long as I look at this and don’t turn my head around to see the mess that I have to deal with . . .

Hey, I’m as happy as a clam.

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Diving at the Country Club

Posted in Under the Sea on September 20th, 2009 by MadDog
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On Saturday, we were bored with the usual dive sites. I’ve done most of them at least a hundred times. A couple of years ago, we did a dive on the point just in front of the club house at the Madang Country Club. The sea there was reasonably smooth on Saturday, so we decided to have a go. You have to watch the sea state and the wind closely, since the only place to anchor is only about ten metres from the rocks.

We went straight down to about 40 metres at the south side of the point, intending to work our way around it and come back to the boat over the top. It was not as clear as I like, but the canyons there are fairly spectacular. I got this shot of a sea fan at about 35 metres in natural light. The Canon G10 is amazing:

Sea Fan

It was shot in the RAW mode (always, please, for underwater shots – it’s the ONLY way to go) and worked over with the Adobe Camera RAW filter to adjust for tint and colour temperature before loading it into Photoshop. At that point you can sometimes just apply the Auto Tone or Auto Colour controls and come up with a shot that needs only minor adjustments. It is only a matter of how picky you are how much more work you want to do.

Here on the bottom at 40 metres I found someone’s clothes. No bones, so I don’t think anybody was in them:

Clothing found at 40 metres

I’m always harping about using natural light for UW photos. You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again. I like for my images to look as close as possible to the way that I saw them. The gaudy colours of flash photography are pretty, but no diver is going to tell you that you will actually see those colours while diving.

Here is an excellent example. At 40 metres, under a ledge, no less, I found this lonely nudibranch. The Canon G10 handled the shot with aplomb. It was a very slow shutter speed, so I had to brace the camera firmly, but, with a little Photoshop magic, you are seeing the nudibranch exactly as I saw it:

Nudibranch shot with natural light under a ledge at 40 metres

Now have a look at the same shot taken when I turned on my flash:

Nudibranch shot with flash under a ledge at 40 metres

It is certainly prettier, in the sense that it has nice, bright colours, but it is not what I saw.

There seemed to be quite a few critters much deeper here than I normally see them. Here are some Anthea  at 40 metres, about twice as deep as you normally see this particular variety:

Anthea at 40 metres

Coming up to shallower water near the end of the dive, I found this Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima):

Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima)

The title Giant is a bit misleading in this case. This specimen was only about a half-metre long.

This goofy looking thing is a kind of sea squirt. There are an incredible variety of sea squirts around here, most of them with interesting shapes and colours. This one, however, takes the cake in the “God’s little joke” category:

Tunicate (Polycarpa aurata)

In case you care, it’s a Polycarpa aurata.

I’m never unaware of the great blessing of living in a place where, for a few bucks worth of fuel, I can go out with my mates every Saturday and dive in one of the most prolific and beautiful marine habitats on the planet.

What’s more, my mates always kick in for the fuel, and a little extra. What more can a guy ask?

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Chaos from the Land of the Unexpected

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 19th, 2009 by MadDog
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Keeping with the theme of random images from yesterday (it seemed to work), Here is a nice little shot of the mangrove creek up at Blueblood. I came out much better than It expected, which is not unusual when using the Olympus SP-590UZ:
The mangrove creek at BluebloodThis next one looks like a panorama stitch, which would be nearly impossible with this scene. I wanted a very wide angle, so I put the camera down about 3 cm from the water (very carefully) and shot blind, since I could not see the image screen. I took about ten shots like that. This one came out the best. All I had to do then was crop it so that it looks like a panorama. Simple, eh?
Another shot of the Mangrove creek at BluebloodThe Olympus did a terrific job on this one. The sea was quite rough on the way back from Blueblood. I wanted to get the nice colours of the sky, with the dark sea, but I also wanted t get the water splashing up from the bow wake. I decided to try the Night+Portrait setting from the Scenes knob position. It’s meant for shooting pretty lights in the background (with a tripod, most likely, unless you want motion blur) and getting a correct flash exposure on subjects in the foreground. In this shot (the best of ten) I got a good exposure on the sky and water, even while the boat was bucking like a spanked mule, and I also got perfectly exposed and stopped water drops from the wake. Amazing!
Sky, sea, and spray on the way back from BluebloodIt’s too bad that most people don’t seem to read the manuals on these top of the line point and shoot cameras. The will do things that were technically impossible to do only a decade ago.

Here is another shot, though not as good as the last, showing the Night+Portrait mode. I was a little too far from Mike to use the image as it came from the camera, so I had to fiddle with it a bit. Unfortunately, the fiddling is all too obvious:Mike CassellStill, it’s an image that would be difficult to get if you did not have the special settings needed built right into the camera waiting for the touch of a button.

Since I have acquired somehow an obsession with spiders, I’ll throw a couple of the leggy little critters at you. These are both residents of Blueblood. This is Fred: Spider at Blueblood
And this is Ginger showing off by hanging upside-down:
Another Blueblood spiderSpiders. Can’t get enough of them these days. I wonder if it’s a dietary deficiency?

I’ll leave you with my image pick of the week. It’s one of those shots that, when I took it, I didn’t think it was going to be much. Then, as I started to play with it and listen, it began to shout at me. “Hey, look at ME! I should be in National whatchacallit magazine! Gimme a break, man”Yonki dam spillwayHard to ignore pleas such as that. So I fiddled with this shot of the spillway at Yonki Dam with the kids walking home from school. You know what?

I fell in love with it.

Spooky, eh?

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I’ll Take Whatever My Camera Gives Me

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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Because of my incredibly generous boss, with whom I sleep, I ended up with a five day holiday. Perhaps I should explain. My boss at the office also happens to be my wife. About the holiday, we had to skip one recently because of work loads, so she gave us that one back and another one following Independence Day. So, I was off from Wednesday and I don’t have to go back to the IT sweatshop until Monday. Hurah!

To celebrate, I’m going crazy (un . . . make that crazier). I worked on fourteen images this morning and I’m going to throw them at you in a more or less random order over the next two days. Some may amuse you. Some may not. Some may lead you to wonder what I’ve been smoking. All is well; it’s my job to amuse. It’s the only thing that I do with some degree of competency.

Let’s start out with this perfectly ordinary image of a perfectly ordinary object. It’s an Aussie barbecue. I can hear the Americans scoffing. Believe me, the Aussies scoff just as loudly at the Yank style. My friend Trevor Hattersley explained it yesterday:  “The Yanks got it upside down. They put the grill on top and the plate on the bottom. They do everything upside down up there in the Northern Hemisphere.”:

An Aussie BBQ

As a Yank, I’m not allowed closer than this to the barbecue. Sometimes they will allow me to start the fire, under close supervision. The white stuff on the big steel plate is sea salt left from the sea water used to ‘scrape’ the plate. The plate is never  cleaned. I’ve been told it sometimes takes years for the plate to develop the correct flavour. I case you’re wondering, the food that is cooked on this contraption is exquisite.

This shot of a hibiscus lit from behind with the coconut fronds and the dark blue sky in the background is exactly as it came from my Olympus SP-590UZ. Sometimes the camera is right. You don’t want to mess with it. I only did a little cropping:

Hibiscus lit from the back

As much as I like Flying Foxes, I’m shocked that I have no good shots of them. I’ll have to fix that someday. They are hard to shoot, because they are way up in tall trees, mostly beyond accurate slingshot range. Here is an early morning mob just settling in after a night out dining on the farmers’ papayas and bananas:

Flying Foxes

Here’s a shot a little closer in. You can see a couple of them flying around:

More Flying Foxes

This is as close as I could get from where I was standing. You can begin to see individuals. The really pack themselves in:

Still more Flying Foxes

Keeping with the day’s theme of randomness, here is a nice shot of an Indonesian style boat with Little Pig Island  in the background:

Indonesian boat

I would really love to have one of these. It’s a very pretty design. They travel thousands of miles over open ocean in these boats. I imagine that they must be very fuel efficient, since they are small and have a very long, slender hull. The outriggers make them very stable.

To finish up for today, here is a shot that I got on the way back from Blueblood on Wednesday. We had a birthday party up there for Di Cassell. We rode up and back on Mike Cassell’s boat. On the way back, the setting sun was glistening off of the water in a very magical way:

Sunset from Mike Cassell's boat

I particularly like the crazy angles in the shot. The horizon is level, but nothing else is straight. The Olympus did a nice job of exposing the image, even if the highlights are blown. You couldn’t expect much more from any camera given the dynamic range in the scene.

Unless you’re completely colour-blind, you’ll note that I converted the image to monochrome. Some things simply look better without the distraction of colour.

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More Life at Ukarumpa

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 17th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m writing this on Independence Day for release tomorrow, because I want to have a day off. It’s the time machine thing again. It’s only a small cheat. I still have to do the work. I just get to do it a day early.

I’ll toss out a few more images from my recent visit to Ukarumpa near Kainantu in the highlands. I wish I could name all of these plants. Botany was one of my favourite subjects at university, but it strains my brain just to remember a few hundred fish names, let alone try to remember plant names. There’s only so much room in my skull and it feels like it’s shrinking.

Anyway, I like the way this pretty little yellow flower seems to be growing out of a very messy bird’s nest:

Yellow flower

I showed this white one a couple of days ago. Here is what it looks like as it’s ageing:

White flower - young and old

It gives me hope that it’s still interesting. It’s colours are faded, it’s missing a few petals, it looks a little tired, but a bug still comes to visit. It’s not proud and glistening as is its younger mate, but it’s got a lot of character.

Here is another juicy spider for you: (click to enlarge and do a Save Image As – it makes a great desktop background)

Spider

I think these are a fairly common flower in gardens. Here, in this light, they seem to glow:

Orange flowers

Ukarumpa, being a high-altitude tropical place is, of course, a fern lover’s paradise. Here is a typical hillside:

Hillside ferns

I particularly enjoy the colours of this one:

Another fern

Here is another shot of the same hillside:

Fern

It’s ten in the morning on a holiday and I’ve been here since seven. I’m going home now to get ready to go up to Blueblood for party time.

Whooo-haaaah!

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Two Years of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 16th, 2009 by MadDog
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Today is Papua New Guinea Independence Day. We got some of the holes in our roads fixed, since the Prime Minister is allegedly showing up. Blessed be the PM.

It’s also about a week past the second birthday of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  I didn’t miss it, I just didn’t know what to say about it. Here is sunrise at my house this morning:

Independence Day sunrise

This is the 568th post. I didn’t start out writing every day. Then it got to be an ego thing, because I got so much reaction to it. When a lot of people started reading, I got all puffed up and decided more was better. At the same time, I decided that, since we’re getting poorer by the year as our religious supporters forget about us, then I’d try to make up a bit by writing. Of course, what you are reading now contributes nothing financially, since I refuse to allow ads on the site. Nevertheless, I rationalise that, if I’m going to call myself a writer, then I have to write daily – and try to do it as well as I might.

I like this shot from this morning of the little point of land near Smuggler’s Inn (ugh!) in the sunrise:

Sunrise on Astrolabe Bay

I don’t know what the average length of my posts is; let’s say 500 words. That comes out to roughly 284,000 words. According to Wikipedia, a novel has to be 40,000 words or more.  That means I’ve written the equivalent of about seven short novels in two years. Of course, nobody with a brain would read them as a novel. They are “moods”. That’s my own invention, by the way. My Creative Writing professor at university once asked me what in the world I was writing in my assignments. I told her, “Moods.” She seemed happy with that. I got an A.

Do you like these ladies out admiring the sunrise? I do:

Early morning risers

You’ve also seen roughly 2,000 images here. I’m vain enough to say that most of them are not “snapshots”. I work far more hours on my images than I do the writing. That’s because – if you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll have noticed this – to me, the images are  the stories.

I also saw a sailboat heading out into Astrolabe Bay  this morning:

Sailboat at sunrise on Astrolabe Bay

What makes me keep doing this? Well, there are a few reasons. One is obviously ego. I get a terrific feeling when someone that I’ve just met says, “Hey, you’re the guy who does that blog!”, though I don’t think of it as a blog. It’s difficult to calculate accurately, because I’ve used several different tracking methods over the two years, but I estimate that I’ve had about 250,000 unique visitors to Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  It’s growing too. So far this month, we’ve had 9.560 unique visitors. I’ve been told by someone who is involved in tracking internet sites that this is the largest site in Papua New Guinea in terms of hits. I don’t have any way to confirm that, but it amazes me, nevertheless.

Other reasons? I mentioned already the practice, practice, practice thing. In truth, the main reason I keep doing it is you. As I receive comments on the site and on my Facebook account, I can see that people enjoy the daily experience.

Once you start to give, it hurts too much to stop. That’s one of the nice  things about giving. Because I give this, I’ve got many thousands of friends around the world who would be happy to meet me and buy me a beer. That seems to me to be a very nice reward or the effort.

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