Heart of the Hunter – Part 1

Posted in Under the Sea on November 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m fairly frantically trying to balance my work between herding a bunch of ornery computers, writing an article for Niugini Blue,  and doing my daily posts on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  There’s just no help for it. I’ve got to combine some tasks to serve dual purposes or sink into the dreaded black hole of “missed deadline” which means embarrassment and lost of precious moolah. So, I’m killing two of the three birds with one bullet (which is my not so clever way of slipping into the subject matter) by giving you a preview of the images that I’m submitting and a taste of the text. This literary snake-oil will be delivered to you in two or three parts.

My Gradpa taught me to hunt. Marksmanship was first on the list of essential skills, so, back when ammo was dirt cheap, I fired thousands of rounds at teeny-weeny targets until I was up to Granddad’s standards, which were pretty high. All this practice served me well when I went for Army training, as I qualified Expert on every weapon with which I was trained (and a few that I wasn’t supposed to be using).

Grandpa also schooled me in the psychology of the hunt, with which I became obsessed. Unfortunately, this involved a lot of blood loss, mostly to the critters at which I was shooting. I never thought much about it at the time. It was just hunting – everybody did it. Eunie and I survived a whole summer in Montana on the huge jackrabbits that I shot (she bagged a few – she is also an excellent marksman).

Anyway, not to get carried away, I had a few bad experiences with beautiful creatures whose designated bullets had not landed precisely. They tell tales about animals screaming when horribly wounded. I’m here to tell you that it can happen. It’s something that you don’t want to hear. So, I left the killing behind, cold turkey, as it were, but the other, less bloody psychological elements of the hunt have never left me.

What to do? Shoot them with a camera, of course! I didn’t dream this up. I remember when I was a kid seeing newsreels of big game hunters who had sickened of the killing and were mounting expensive cameras with huge telephoto lenses on rifle stocks. They were making a pretty drastic statement at a time when most people were fairly blasé about the whole matter of hunting. I admired these people.

No, I’m not going to unload the whole article on you here. It will run upwards of 1,600 words and I don’t expect anybody to read a post that long. So, let me get to my most recent ‘kills’. It’s illegal in most civilised places now to kill a hawk, but it’s there’s no problem with bagging a Dwarf Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco)  with your camera:

Dwarf Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco)This is by far the best shot that I’ve done of this species. You’ve seen many Hawkfish here before (use the search box), but this is the one, of this species, that will define my best work, at least until I get better gear.

Moving from the sublime to the clownish, this little fellow (or lady – who knows) is a Spotted Sand Diver (Trichonotus setiger):

Spotted Sand Diver (Trichonotus setiger)They are fiendishly difficult to photograph, because they do exactly what the name implies. One second it’s there on your screen, the next instant it’s dived head-first into the sand, leaving only a puff of pale powder drifting along in the current. I was trying very hard to get a black background in this shot, but I could not get low enough. If I had, you could better see the long, slender filaments extending from its dorsal fin.

Somebody out there is thinking, “Enough with the Spinecheeks, already!”, but I’m not giving up until I’ve done it perfectly. So here’s yet another  Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus):

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)I’m getting close to what I want. If you click to enlarge you can probably make out some scales and you should definitely be able to see the lateral line.

Here’s one that you have seen here only once before. This is a much better shot of the Redfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunulatus):

Redfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunulatus)I’d call this thing absurdly beautiful. That doesn’t mean a lot, since the ocean is chock full of absurdly beautiful things.

I’m not much of a sportsman when hunting with my camera. Sitting ducks are also on the list of endangered beasties. Nudibranchs are ridiculously easy to shoot. The don’t move very fast, maybe a metre a day. All you have to do is find them. That’s the crunch. It’s a treat to find such a nice specimen of a fairly common nudi, (Phyllidia coelestis):

Nudibranch (Phyllidia coelestis)Well, that’s enough for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more of the grisly trophies of my weekly ritual slaughter of the innocents of the sea.

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