A Mystery Image and a Green Lizard

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This morning the sunrise was distinctly unpromising. Being ever the optimist, I waddled out to the stern of Faded Glory and snapped a shot. I had to set my Canon G9 on manual and stop the lens down to f8 and shoot at 1/4000 for a shutter speed at ISO 80 to keep from blasting a hole through the camera:

Alien Sunrise

UPDATE: Okay, okay, that’s just too, too horrible. Let me give it another try:

Alien Sunrise (second try)

Wasn’t that interesting? Well, I went into all that blather for the photo geeks out there who will understand that, under those conditions, there’s precious little colour and luminance information left anywhere in the shot except near the sun. That’s the price we pay for being cheap. A $4,000 camera would do much better, but I don’t have that kind of money and probably wouldn’t spend it on a camera if I did. (I lie! If I were rich I’d have the best cameras on the planet.)

Anyway, all that is in the way of an apology for the excruciating, but somehow numbingly weird colours in the shot. I fiddled and fiddled and finally changed the title. That’s what photographers (and writers) do when a project fails miserably. I’m calling it Alien Sunrise.

There’s no mystery about this image. It’s clearly a lizard – a lizard frozen in terror. It’s desperately attempting to appear to be a part of the bush. I had a devil of a time getting this shot. In the wild, these things are masters of hide-and-seek unlike a squirrel:Green Lizard hiding in my bushesBy holding my camera out at far from my body as possible and sticking it into the bush very slowly I managed to get off one good shot. I’d call this the luck one of the day.

UPDATE: a Facebook friend, Robert Sprackland (Ph.D., Zoology — Herpetology, Systematics — Evolution, Biogeography — Biodiscovery), a guy who knows his slithery critters, passed this information on to me: “It’s a New Guinea endemic, a green-blooded skink, genus Prasinohaema (Greek for – SURPRISE! – “green blooded.”) Can’t be sure of species from a single photo, but best guess is the yellow-footed green-blooded skink (lordy, that sounds colourful!), Prasinohaema flavipes. Thanks for that, Robert. I had no idea that I’d captured such an exotic little beastie.

Now for the Mystery Object. Tropical residents will have a better shot at guessing this:Mystery image - view 1Didn’t get it?

How about this:Mystery image - view 2Okay, I bet a lot of people are guessing some kind of wood. And right you are.

A coconut tree in our front yard was hit by lightning this year and killed. Part of it had already fallen and smashed the bow of Faded Glory. So, a few weeks ago, I had some guys come in to chop the rest of it down. As I was walking past this morning I noticed that some weird combination of tropical rot and last night’s rain, along with the warm rays of the rising sun, had made it glow bright red:

Mystery image - It's a coconuty treeSorry for the cheap shot.

I’ll make amends with this lovely hibiscus:HibiscusAs you can see, the sun is coming in from the back. I like this lighting with flowers. It makes the petals seem to glow with a light of their own.

If you click the hibiscus to enlarge it you will see one lonely little ant down in the left side of the dark centre area.

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9 Responses to “A Mystery Image and a Green Lizard”

  1. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Call me weird, but I really like “Alien Sunrise.” It’s surreal but beautiful in a wonderful way, reminds me of a painter whose name escapes me right now.

    I am such a sucker for lizards. What a green beauty! His shape and head look very skink-like to me, but I’m not aware of skinks (in the US, anyway) that are arboreal. Having tried 5 times to get that shot of my Western Fence Lizard, I can appreciate what it probably took to get his little one. He’s gracing my desktop today!

    Also like your “abstract” shots. A dear friend of mine who has passed was a terrific photographer, and almost specialized in close-ups of everyday objects as abstract art. What you did reminded me of is work, especially the first shot.

    Finally, my wife loves hibiscus, and for me, the naturalist, the little ant is the perfect finishing touch. Great post, MadDog!

  2. MadDog Says:

    Man I could fill a book with hibiscus shots. We have about a million colours here. I have at least ten different ones in my yard. The ant was a bonus. I didn’t even notice it until I was processing the image.

    I had a look at the abstract shots that you emailed to me. Got me inspired. I’m gonna do some more of that. http://www.messersmith.name/wordpress/2009/01/04/strolling-through-my-garden/, http://www.messersmith.name/wordpress/2008/03/22/in-my-garden-5-orange-coconut-trees/

    Read the Lizard post again. A Facebook friend sent me the identification.

    As for the sunrise, I’ll just call you weird. Maybe a Turner: http://www.messersmith.name/wordpress/2009/03/27/astounding-port-moresby-sky/

  3. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Cool, it was a skink, as I suspected! They are so distinctive with their head shape and bodies. Kudos and thanks to Dr. Sprackland for identifying…..a “surprising” lizard, for sure.

    But now, I wondering, is the blood *really* green? I know that copper-based blood, like horseshoe crabs, can be blue….wondering (out loud) what element would make a creature’s blood green?

    If you could fill a book with hibiscus, maybe you could make a book of local hibiscus (as if you needed more work to do!) Don’t know if there’s be a market for it, though I bet it would sell off the racks at a major airport in New Guinea as tourists enter and leave the country. I bet a book of your underwater photos would also sell like hotcakes. People love books like that to take home as keepsakes from their visit. Yep, Steve, cheerleading again! :)

    You have so many fabulous photos, I’d constantly be tempted to make an iPhoto book from the “best of”…one of the cool things about iPhoto is the “built-in” make-a-book feature.

    Thanks for three other links…loved the “Turner” shot…and the tree bark/lichen images are really nice….I love “abstracts’ like that….and look forward to seeing what evolves with you as they come to light in your work.

  4. A Little Nature Walk in My Garden | Madang - Ples Bilong Mi Says:

    [...] the same bush in which I found a beautiful green lizard the other day, I spotted this tiny bug hiding under a leaf. The sun was shining through the leaf [...]

  5. MadDog Says:

    According to a herpetologist friend of mine, Dr. Robert Sprackland, this lizard has something like 5,000 times the human fatal level of bile in its blood. That’s why it’s green. Yoweee! That must sting.

  6. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Bile? You’re kidding me? And 5,000 times the human fatal level? Whoa! Amazing. According to Shakespearean time beliefs, that much bile would mean one ornery lizard! I bet it makes him really foul tasting to predators too…..though he doesn’t have the typical “dont’ eat me or mess with me” colors that some insects have, like hornets and nasty-tasting monarch butterflies…

    Thanks to you, and your friend for the fascinating info. That’s one “extreme” lizard!

  7. MadDog Says:

    I imagine that its bright green colour is an advertisement for the bile inside, which I agree would probably not taste very nice. The ‘billboard’ approach to announcing bad taste works well for a local bird called the Hooded Pitohui which is bright orange and black and contains a neurotoxin. I’ve heard that just touching it can make your hands go numb. It gets it from a toxic beetle that it eats. I lilke the name – PIIITOOOHUUUYY! That’s what you say if you tasted one.

  8. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Hooded Patohui? What a great name, and “pitoooohuuy” indeed! I’ve never heard of a bird with poisonous feathers — sounds like an extreme science candidate for sure! :)

    It’s interesting how the many of the poisonous animals get that way by eating insects — the poison arrow frog gets its deadly poison from eating ants, and does something nasty with their formic acid. Now, I hear about this bird eating a beetle to make a poison. Neat.

    I saw an interesting science special where crows would go on a kind of ant that sprayed formic acid when agitated or attacked….they let the ants get all over them, briefly, and got the acid on them, and then combed it through their feathers as a kind of insecticide — apparently, works great for the crows. Pretty darn smart.

    In a related behavior, some types of gibbons do something similar with a giant millipede that exudes a nasty, poisonous substance when irritated….the gibbons rub the exuding millipedes all over their bodies to kill and repel pests. They don’t kill the millipedes, just made them exude by biting them lightly.

  9. A Little Bit of Everything | Madang - Ples Bilong Mi Says:

    [...] it bit. Dr. Robert Sprackland sent a copy of his new book, Guide to Lizards,  because it has one of my images in it. I could not find this lizard in it. I don’t know what that means. Maybe it’s [...]